health and longevity with the raw food diet…

  • Back to Articles Menu
    Raw Meaty Bones
    How does feeding raw meaty bones to the dog or cat improve their health?
    What are the nutrients found in raw meaty bones?
    According to scientific record, dogs have been around for the last 40 million years. As processed dog food was only introduced in the 1960’s in Australia, it means that dogs and cats were surviving on raw meaty bones and food scraps for the last 39.5 million years. This strongly suggests that maybe the digestive tract of our pets hasn’t changed all that much from their bone-crunching ancestors.

    In support of this claim, Dr Syme from ‘Vets All Natural,’ states in an article that, “
    dogs and cats have evolved a gastric environment that favours the breakdown of raw meats, raw bones, and a pH that kills potentially harmful bacteria – consistent with the requirements of carnivores, and in particular, the scavenging nature of dogs.” (Dr Syme 2010)

    As dogs are believed to have evolved from the wolf, they are still very similar both anatomically and (given the chance,) behaviourally too. The industrial strength of a dog’s stomach is that of its wild ancestor, highly acidic, “
    eating food contaminated with bacteria like salmonella and other food-borne pathogens are not such a problem for dogs…” (Olson 2010) Evidence gathered from both scientists and Veterinarians confirm that the internal organs and how they function (including digestion) are the same in all dogs both wild and domestic. (Billinghurst 1993) In conclusion, Raw Meaty Bones are a ‘superior source of nutrients’ which, at the same time provide the gut with a workout. (Schultze 2007)

    Having gathered an abundance of supporting evidence in favour of the raw diet, including the above information from four advocates of raw meaty bones, I feel very confident that this method of feeding is indeed an essential part of every healthy cat and dogs diet, rather than the processed food being given to the majority of pets.

    Whilst there is an increasing, number of pet owners confidently switching their pets to a raw diet and like myself, getting amazing results, unfortunately there remains to be an abundance of scientific claims that bones and any kind of homemade diet are dangerous. The arguments are based on several issues, which are:

    -Domestic dogs branched off from their wild relatives over 100,000years ago and due to selective breeding, dogs are very different from their wild ancestors
    -Domestic dogs now have smaller, less robust skulls and dentition; they are no longer designed like a wolf
    -There is no evidence that commercial pet foods cause sickness or are toxic, even if some do contain ethoxyquin. (highly debatable)
    -Nutrients that are destroyed during the processing of pet food are replaced with supplements afterwards
    -Raw diets expose the pets to parasitic organisms such as Salmonella, risking their health
    -Scientifically tested pet food, “
    is certainly superior to the near total ignorance of the nutritional adequacy of most homemade of commercial raw diets.” (McKenzie DVM 2010)

    Articles written by Veterinarians which promote commercial pet food and deplore raw homemade diets such as the one above, make me wonder: 1. What organisation teaches cat and dog nutrition at Veterinary school, 2. How much of the students time is taken to learn about wholesome nutrition and 3. Which multi million dollar pet food company is behind such education?

    And now back to real food……
    In order to determine just how incredibly important raw meaty bones are in our dog and cats diet, here is a list of the nutrients found in the bones of a chicken:

    -The bones contain minerals embedded in protein
    -They are living tissue composed of living cells
    -The bone marrow with its high fat content also contains important
    minerals, Iron and Copper
    -Bones provide
    antioxidants, which assist in the destruction of free radicals (the toxic by-product left behind by chemical reactions in the body)
    -They contain live
    enzymes to assist chemical reactions which speed up the breakdown of nutrients, aid digestion and help to synthesise new proteins
    -They contain the perfect balance of
    Calcium and Phosphorus
    -Bones contain all of the
    essential amino acids except for only one, Methionine (which can easily be obtained from raw meat)
    essential fatty acids in their natural form is found in the marrow
    -Fat soluble
    vitamins A, D and E to assist the immune system
    -Bone contains an abundance of the amino acid
    Lysine that is known to directly assist the immune system

    Having listed the contents of raw meaty bones, how can these nutrients assist the health of our pets?

    Protein is what creates our body tissue, nerve, bones and organs. Proteins are the building blocks of growth and repair; they produce some of the hormones and enzymes in the body and play the important role of antibody production to fight bacteria, viruses and toxins. A lack of protein in the diet results in a very sick, weak, underweight pet with skeletal atrophy, a weak immune system, reproductive problems and a very dull coat. To ensure the diet has sufficient protein, the bones given to our pets must be meaty, especially for cats that require significantly higher amounts of protein than dogs.

    Iron is essential to carry oxygen on the red blood cells (haemoglobin) all around the body. It is essential for life. A deficiency in iron will result in anaemia. An excellent source of iron is the bone marrow. However, to ensure sufficient uptake of this mineral, it is best to supplement the diet with vitamin C or add foods such as berries, broccoli, capsicum pepper and kiwi fruit which are all high in natural vitamin C. (Goldstein et al 2005)

    Copper is an essential part of protein metabolism. It also assists in the release of toxins from the body. Copper deficiencies can lower the immune defences, cause overall weakness and in the worst case scenario cause problems with growth, reproduction and result in anaemia. Too much calcium in the diet can deplete copper from the body.

    Calcium is the main component in teeth and bones. It is required for the normal contraction of the heart muscle and assists in the metabolism of fats by helping their absorption into the blood from the intestines. A shortage of calcium can lead to major bone problems, however, too much calcium can also lead to similar problems. Excessive calcium can prevent other nutrients from being absorbed by binding to them such as Zinc and Copper.

    Phosphorus is essential in the release of energy from the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It helps the absorption of sugars from the intestine into the blood and assists in the storage of sugar in the liver. If the diet contains too much phosphorus it can lead to damaged kidneys and heart disease. This is usually the case with an ‘all meat’ or ‘commercial pet food’ diet over a long period of time. Both of these diets are very high in phosphorus and low in calcium. Raw meaty bones have the ideal ratio of calcium to phosphorus not found in any other food.

    Antioxidants slow the ageing process by protecting the body of free radicals. They improve our pet’s immune system, assist in cell division and are able to lower the risk of cancer. Antioxidants found in raw meaty bones are Vitamin A and E.

    Enzymes assist in metabolising foods in the way of breakdown and synthesis. They help to process waste out of cells, they improve and speed up digestion, they increase the absorption of nutrients, assist in reducing inflammation, enzymes digest bacteria and can lower pain. Enzymes are basically catalysts assisting all chemical reactions in the body to take place. Deficiencies in enzymes can cause allergies, chronic inflammation, organ malfunction and an overload of free radicals.

    Vitamins A, D and E are all fat-soluble nutrients. Vitamins A and E are antioxidants.

    Vitamin A improves vision, fur, skin, eyes, gums, gut, intestines, bone metabolism, transcription of DNA, improves immunity, embryo development, mobilises iron so reducing anaemia, assists soft mucous tissue and prevents arthritis.

    Vitamin D is for the removal of waste products. Excess vitamin D leads to hyperglycaemia, raised calcium and kidneys to malfunction. A lack of Vitamin D can lead to a poor skeletal system resulting in rickets. If there are any rancid fats in the diet, they will destroy vitamin D. In the correct amount it prevents arthritis, hip displasia and assists to lower inflammation.

    Vitamin E is essential for the formation of cell membranes, respiration in cells, metabolism of fats, it is an oxygen facilitator, it assists circulation, and it is also an antioxidant therefore a vital part of the immune system. It is also of great benefit when supplementing EFA’s as it protects these fats from becoming rancid. Vitamin E is also involved in the formation of the genetic material DNA.

    Essential amino acids are necessary for many metabolic and physiological processes, healthy body tissue and play an integral role in the production of hormones and enzymes. In particular the amino acids Taurine and L-carnitine are important for our pets.

    Carnitine is essential for the metabolism of fatty acids and the release of energy from the cells. Taurine found in raw meat is not essential for dogs but is essential for cats. Deficiency in taurine can lead to a cat having heart problems and blindness due to retina degeneration.

    Lysine is one of the amino acids, when taken with Vitamin C it relieves heart conditions, herpes, prevents bone loss, improves the immune system, aids in the production of antibodies, hormones and enzymes. It’s also good for sneezing and watery eyes. (Goldstein et al 2005)

    Essential fatty acids are of vital importance and very much a part of growth and fertility. They prevent the puppy from having skeletal disease. They form an essential part of the cell membrane; they play key roles in the nervous system, and must be present for the production of hormones. They are essential for metabolism. EFA’s must be undamaged, unheated, from a high quality cold pressed source and be refrigerated in a dark bottle. EFA’s should be given with Vitamin E to prevent the oils from becoming rancid in the body.
    Who would have thought a raw meaty bone contained so many nutrients?

    It is important however, to realise that not all bones carry exactly the same nutrients; in fact they vary quite a lot. The most accessible raw meaty bones are
    chicken, beef, lamb and pork. Chicken bones are the best choice in most cases for cats and dogs as they have the most abundant source of EFA’s in their rich bone marrow. (Billinghurst 1993) As chicken bones are from young birds, around two months old, they do not contain as many toxins from poor feed and environmental pollution as older animals. They are not only high in quality nutrients but are free of hydatids and are more easily absorbed than other thicker harder bones such as beef. Chicken carcasses contain excellent nutrients for cats and dogs. (Olson 2010) As always though, organic produce is far superior and of course more in line with animal welfare issues.

    In comparison
    Lamb bones, whilst containing all of the basic nutrients of a raw meaty bone, they do contain a lot of fat, a low amount of EFA’s, possibly contain hydatids and are known to cause diarrhoea in some animals. However they are soft and contain very few toxins.

    Pork bones, like lamb are also high in fat but are also very high in EFA’s. There is a possibility these bones also contain hydatids.

    Beef bones, although they are the most popular bone to give to a dog, they are probably the worst choice. Beef bones are usually from an older animal, which means that the bones may have stored toxins due to environmental pollution and possibly poor feed. Due to their hardness they can cause the animals teeth to wear down from gnawing or at worst they can cause teeth to break. They are also not very high in EFA’s. Whilst still of benefit to our pets health, they are not the best choice of raw meaty bone. (Billinghurst 1993)

    Apart from raw meaty bones being excellent nutrition they also provide cats and dogs with good exercise, healthy teeth and gums, enhanced bowel peristalsis, extra fibre, enjoyment, emotional balance, and the most important factors, good health, less visits to the vets and in the long term, an absence of degenerative diseases. As bones significantly bulk up the diet there is also less chance of impacted anal glands and soft smelly stools. Firm stools (from bone eating) ensure that anal glands are expressed on a regular basis.

    It however, remains a fact that the majority of Veterinarian’s and dog owners are not confident to feed their pets raw meaty bones. Some warn of the dangers of raw bones still having the potential to splinter and cause internal injury. Even though they will agree that bones are nutritious and are the most natural way to obtain essential Calcium, they would still rather promote calcium supplements in the form of calcium carbonate and bone meal. (Pitcairn 2005) Kathy Schultze author of ‘Natural Nutrition for Cats and Dogs,’ disagrees with people’s lack of confidence in raw bones. Not only do bones provide nutrients, intestinal exercise and great health, they encourage the correct pH in the body (essential for all chemical reactions to take place in). However, to ensure high quality, nutrient rich bones, they should be from organically raised animals rather than from factory farmed, intensively reared animals (Shultze 2007).

    In comparison to raw bones, cooked bones are very different in their composition. The protein that is extracted from cooked bone is of a very poor quality, indigestible protein called gelatine. There is a major deficiency of amino acids, no vitamins, no fat, no nutrients in the marrow, no antioxidants and almost all of the enzymes have been destroyed (Billinghurst 1993).

    The analysis of cooked bone given by Dr Billinghurst is very similar to the composition of bone given by Dr Dunn in an article on the Pet MD website entitled, ‘Nutritional aspects of bone composition.’ Dr Dunn in his opposition to feeding raw bones writes that ‘bones’ have no vitamins, no EFA’s, no enzymes, scant amounts of amino acids, lots of indigestible protein, and up to 70% inorganic ‘hydroxyapatite.’ He suggests that the only good thing about bones are when they are in their ground up form as they provide a great source of calcium and phosphorus. Dr Dunn’s advice is that bones should be finely ground and in support of dental and gum health he suggests a processed rawhide bone that softens if ingested. (Dr Dunn 2011 Article 1.) In this article it is important to note that Dr Dunn’s analysis of bone may not have been based on ‘raw’ bone but cooked, processed bone. Unfortunately, it is this kind of article that destroys a pet owners faith in giving raw meaty bones to their pets.

    Cooked bones, whilst being very dangerous to cats and dogs due to their tendency to splinter, are incredibly low in nutrients. Even if they are ground into a powder (as in bone meal), they still lack the essential nutrients found abundant in raw bone. Cooked bone is void of vitamins, the calcium becomes as poor as its processed version and binds to other minerals rendering them useless, the protein becomes indigestible, the fat is lost; as are the fatty acids, the marrow is destroyed, the antioxidants are depleted and the enzymes in their denatured state are useless. (Billinghurst 1993)

    When a dog or cat is switched from a processed diet to one of raw meaty bones the digestive upsets that may occur are due to the gut of the pet being less acidic than that of its raw food eating relatives. If a cat or dog has been fed processed food for a long time, the gastric juices will have increased their pH to adapt to the more alkaline diet. The problems that Dr Syme from Vets All Natural finds, is that a dog with a history of processed food will have an altered pH, their gastric emptying has slowed down and food-borne pathogens are not destroyed effectively as they would be in a dog on a regular diet of raw meaty bones. With the raised pH in the gut, the food may not be digested properly, which can include undigested bone that can lead to obstruction. As a result, Dr Syme suggests that a raw diet should be introduced gradually over 7-10 days in which raw meat (a very acidic form of protein) is introduced to begin normalising the gastric pH. Once the gut has achieved the pH nature intended, which is pH 2 or lower, the dog or cat can process a full raw meaty bone diet without a problem. In the words of Dr Syme, “
    This highly acidic environment favours the breakdown of raw meats, and raw bones, into soft digestible material. The low pH also is highly effective at killing bacteria, particularly potentially pathogenic bacteria like salmonella spp, clostridia, campylobacter and E Coli.” (Dr Syme 2010 (3))

    However, the problem still remains that raw bones generally don’t have a very good rapport. This would be partly due to the gut obstructions that Veterinarians warn most pet owners about. Unless cats and dogs are switched to a full raw diet, giving a raw meaty bone once in a while whilst feeding dried processed biscuits and canned pet food may in fact do more harm than good. The challenge to all pet owners is that once they have opened their mind to a raw meaty bone, they need to understand the destruction of a processed diet and be prepared to take the full leap of faith into a complete raw diet.

    In conclusion, dogs and cats, no matter what breed or age, can eat raw meaty bones. The one condition is that they have a healthy set of teeth and gums and a mouth free of infection. A pet that is suffering from tartar on the teeth, gingivitis, or decaying teeth will surely have to have their teeth scaled and any infections cleared up with antibiotics before they start their journey on raw meaty bones. After more than 8 years of researching pets with raw meaty bones, by 1993 Dr Billinghurst (DVM) had already witnessed the amazing results of this natural and evolutionary diet, producing happy, healthy, vibrant pets free of degenerative disease. Five years later, so have I.
    Marie Atkinson 2012

    Billinghurst, I 1993, ‘Give your dog a bone,’ Warrigal Publishing, Australia.

    Goldstein, R.S. V.M.D. & Goldstein, S.J. 2005, ‘The Goldstein’s Wellness & Longevity Program Natural Care for Cats and Dogs.’ TFH Publications USA.

    Olson, L 2010, ‘Raw & Natural Nutrition for Dogs, The definitive guide to homemade meals.’ North Atlantic Books, USA.

    Schultze, K.R 2007, ‘Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats, The Ultimate Diet.’ Hayhouse, USA.

    Internet website references

    2. Vets All Natural by Dr Bruce Syme 2010. Article, ‘Sometimes a raw deal is the best deal.’ Viewed 30 Aug 2011.

    3. Vets All Natural by Dr Bruce Syme 2010. Article, ‘Gastric Acidity, Digesting Bones, Gut Transit Time and Salmonella.

    1. Pet MD website 2011, Article by Dr. T.J. Dunn, viewed 14th August 2011
    Science Based Medicine, published 11th June 2010. Published by B. McKenzie
    Back to Articles Menu
    Was this useful?