health and longevity with the raw food diet…

  • Back to Articles Menu
    Warning: ‘Not for Human Consumption!’

    Prior to the mid 1960s in Australia, domesticated animals were being fed on table scraps and or homemade diets, all of which consisted of human grade food (Billinghurst 1993). Then came the development of commercial pet food, a multi-million dollar industry that has managed to convince the majority of pet owners that there is human food and a very separate category of food specifically for animals called pet food.
    Marketing strategies have ensured pet owners make a clear distinction between the two and that
    human grade food should not be fed to pets. Interestingly, most pet food products clearly state on their packaging, warning, not for human consumption. This makes me wonder, if this pet food is not fit for me to eat then why is it being recommended for my pet to eat?
    t commercial pet food made of fresh meat, bone, offal, vegetables and other healthy nutrients? After all, thats what is implied in all of the pet food marketing campaigns and on all of their packet labels.
    The success of commercial pet food is based on the claims that their food is species specific, completely balanced and requires no preparation what so ever, it
    s ready to go and has a very long shelf life. These strong selling points are without a doubt very appealing to the busy cat or dog owner.
    As a result, the industry continues to grow and expand. Around the world, pets are being fed solely on highly processed, cooked, commercial diets, which are so far removed from anything nature intended.

    In my own experience, I attended The University of Melbourne from 2000-2004 and veterinary students were being taught Animal Nutrition by representatives of commercial pet food companies. Author, Ann Martin also states this in her book,
    Food Pets Die for, that pet food companies not only supply training in nutrition but also ensure their sales by offering graduating veterinary students their products; free or at huge discounts. I have not as yet spoken with a Veterinarian who does not promote commercial pet food. They are specifically trained by the pet food companies to promote commercial diets and to advice clients against homemade diets.
    Most vets are very hesitant to recommend a raw meaty bone. Reasons for this could include lack of training on natural nutrition or maybe fear of being sued should a dog become sick from eating it.

    Dr Billinghurst, author of
    Give Your Dog A Bone, devised six myths of modern dog feeding which are aimed at the marketing strategies used by commercial pet food companies.
    Being an advocate of the Raw Meaty Bone Diet for Cats and Dogs, I would like to address these six myths that appear to have started (coincidentally) around the time that commercial pet food became popular.

    Myth number 1 refers to the evolution of the digestive systems of our pets, claiming that their wild counterparts are physiologically different and stronger.
    Dr. Billinghurst points out that there is no evidence to support this. (Billinghurst 1993).
    In agreement is, Kymythy Shultze, with over 20 years of dedicated research in pet nutrition. She claims there is,
    no evidence proving that the digestive systems of our domesticated dogs and cats are any weaker than that of their wild relatives. (Shultze 2007)
    As a result, there is no reason why our pets should not have a raw meat and bone based diet.
    Also in agreement that our domestic pets are built for a raw and natural diet is Lew Olson, an American Kennel Club Judge for over 30 years, with a PhD in natural health specializing in canine digestion.
    Olson explains that the stomach of the dog with its highly acidic environment deals easily with bacteria and other food borne pathogens found in raw food. The stomach acids are made to fully digest raw bone, meat, fats and offal whilst destroying potentially harmful microbes. The short digestive tract found both in wild and domesticated cats and dogs is also evidence that a raw and natural diet is species specific and therefore the obvious choice (Olson 2010).
    Refreshingly, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and well known author, Dr Pitcairn also agrees that dogs have been surviving on
    real food for at least 10,000 years and that there is no reason why it should not continue with the modern dog. Pitcairn has been advising his own clients for over 27 years to feed a raw diet to their pets with excellent results (Pitcairn et al 2005).

    In Myth number 2 Dr Billinghurst addresses the controversial issue of giving dogs whole raw bones. In my own experience there are Veterinarians who are very much against raw bones for fear of them doing damage to the digestive tract or getting stuck in the throat. Then there a small number of Vets who believe raw bones are a good idea but are still somewhat hesitant to advice them to clients.
    Excluding raw meaty bones from a dog
    s diet can create not only calcium deficiency but can also deprive the animal of nutritious marrow, amino acids, essential fatty acids, fibre, enzymes, antioxidants and a vast array vitamins (Shultze 2007).
    Dr Billinghurst also explains that bones are a major natural source of all the minerals a cat and dog needs for excellent health (Billinghurst 1998). It's also important to point out that the enjoyment and exercise a dog gets from eating a bone cannot be compared to being given a highly processed, cooked chew bar from the supermarket.
    In disagreement with Dr Billinghurst is Dr T.J.Dunn, who states,
    the need to feed whole, raw bones to dogs has yet to be answered to everyones satisfaction.
    He questions the nutrients that are actually found in bone. Is it the actual bone providing the acclaimed nutrients or indeed the attached soft tissue surrounding the bone? Whilst he acknowledges that raw bones have been,
    part of canines diets for as long as they have been tracking, attacking and killing their prey far back into the early shadows of evolution,
    he is still not convinced that raw bones belong in our pets diet.
    To make his decision on the inclusion or rejection of bones in the diet he provides a breakdown of the nutrients in a bone, 'the marrow is predominantly fat, the cartilage is 50% collagen (poorly digestible fibrous tissue) and two thirds calcium phosphate, the bone has no vitamins, no essential fatty acids, no digestive enzymes and may contain excessive amounts of calcium.'
    I wonder if maybe his analysis is based on a 'cooked' bone rather than a raw one?
    Dr Dunn
    s article does however conclude that finely ground bone is a good source of calcium and phosphate, which provides a no risk at all inclusion to the diet. (Pet MD website)

    Myth number 3 looks at the highly debatable issue of cooked verses raw pet food. The myth is that all cat and dog food should be cooked.
    In the research I have gathered, raw food for both animals and humans alike is far superior to cooked foods. Dr Pitcairn, author of
    Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, describes raw food as having a,
    subtle force field that permeates and surrounds all living things.
    This emission of energy from living things has been recorded by a special medium of photography called
    Kirlian photography. The key ingredient ignored by most nutritional scientists, a quality that is only found in freshly grown, uncooked foods is life energy. (Pitcairn 2005)
    Thanks to Kirlian photography, we now know that such life force exists.
    Even if we look at the most basic biological facts of cooked food we will find that:

    • -The molecular structure of food is destroyed by heat,
    • -Enzymes are destroyed (denatured),
    • -Vitamins are destroyed which include important antioxidants.
    In support of this information Shultze who wrote Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats informs us that cooking food changes the molecular structure by binding the food molecules tightly together making them very difficult to digest. In agreement with Billinghurst, Shultze informs us the antioxidants, essential for good health are also destroyed during the cooking process (Shultze 2007).

    The famous Dr. Pottenger
    s Cat Study also supports the raw diet over cooked. He carried out an experiment that ran over several generations of cats. In group 1, he fed the cats on raw food only. They thrived in health and produced healthy, fertile offspring.
    In another group he fed the same food materials only they were cooked. The cats in this group showed ill health, degenerative diseases and after three generations became infertile.
    A similar experiment was also carried out on rats by a Dr McCarison. He concluded that rats fed raw foods did not get sick, did not acquire diseases and lived long healthy lives.
    Their counterparts (on cooked processed foods) became sick, diseased and did not live healthy long lives (Pitcairn et al 2005).

    In disagreement and in ignorance to the above, most Veterinarians and pet owners alike refuse to feed pets on raw food due to the germs, bacteria, parasites and toxins that potentially exist in raw meat. There is also the argument that all raw food (both animal and plant products) is difficult to digest even though the enzymes are alive and active.

    In support of cooked food is a Veterinarian and author Patricia Schenck. In her book on home prepared diets for pets, she strongly advices that all pet food should be cooked as raw ingredients often contain bacteria and can cause serious food born illnesses and poisoning (Schenck 2010).

    I agree, raw foods, particularly meat could contain pathogens and bacteria.
    However our pets have a digestive tract and digestive enzymes to cope with such germs. Those who claim cooked food is superior over raw, fail to state in their promotion of cooked food that the heating process destroys most of the nutrients which then need to be replaced with synthetic supplements. This doesnt sound healthy or what nature intended.
    I have been feeding my cats and dog on raw food for many years and they have never shown any signs of food poisoning. I am very confident to advise the benefits and safety of raw food to all pet owners.

    myth number 4, there is a general consensus that making a homemade raw diet for your cats and dogs is way too difficult and should not be attempted. The main reason for this myth is that commercial pet food is balanced and complete, whereas homemade food is not.
    At this point we should ask ourselves, are all our meals
    balanced and complete? How do we humans achieve a balanced and complete diet? Variety is a good start, including for example, fresh fruit, vegetables, lentils, eggs, nuts, fish, rice and pasta. With variety, we obtain all the nutrients we need over time, rather than trying to attempt to create 'balanced and complete' in each and every meal.

    Apart from when humans are feeding from their own mothers breast milk we never again throughout our lives eat a completely balanced meal. Balancing of nutrients comes over time with a variety of foods. Why can we not then do the same for our pets?

    As many fresh foods now have been grown in poor soil, sprayed with chemicals and genetically modified there is also an increasing need to supplement our diet with vitamins, mineral, oils, digestive enzymes and probiotics. With a good supplement mix we can boost our pets diet too.
    Each and every day we have different needs according to our activity, stress levels, appetite, physical well being and the amount of sleep we have had. In fact there are so many variables in each and every day, how can anyone devise a complete and balanced diet to meet such needs on a daily basis? Truly
    , an impossible task.
    Now when we return to the commercial pet food's main selling tool, 'complete and balanced.'
    If feeding a complete and balanced diet in each and every meal is such a good idea and such a great method of feeding our cats and dogs then why aren't we doing the same for ourselves? Wouldn't it be healthier to achieve balance over several days with a wide variety of foods rather than trying to achieve this daunting task in each and every meal?
    I can confidently say from my own experience that making a homemade diet is not difficult and can be carried out by any caring pet owner with some basic knowledge of nutrition and a little bit of guidance from an animal nutritionist or even a good cat and dog nutrition book.

    Look at my recipe and supplement pages for ideas on how to put together meals that suit your cat or dog. I have also listed a range of textbooks on cat and dog nutrition in my reference page.

    In all honesty, making home-prepared diets for my animals, was at first a little trial and error and initially time consuming, but after around 2-3 weeks the dogs diet was very straightforward.
    Making the cat diet was a little more challenging due to their addiction to dried commercial cat biscuits and their fussy eating habits. But after experimenting with a selection of foods I soon found a great diet with heaps of variety. Check out my recipe page!

    Now I have their diet really well organised, it doesn't take very long to put a meal together.
    I have pre-packed raw meat and bone mince in my freezer along with small 25g packs of frozen offal.
    In my fridge is a large jar of supplement mix, a bottle of probiotic capsules and a bottle of blended oils that I can add to almost every meal.
    In a cupboard assigned to my pets I have jars of baby food) pureed vegetables, a bottle of calcium carbonate tablets (if there is no bone in the meal I prepare), some digestive enzymes and some 'Zwieback Cat Treats (organic, from New Zealand) that I can add to my cats food on the fussy days.
    Once you have your own system of putting it all together it's very easy, not time consuming and incredibly rewarding.

    Myth number 5 in my mind is the root of all evils when it comes to what we should feed our cats and dogs. It is born from the belief that we should only fed our pets with commercial pet food.
    This global multi-billion dollar industry relies on pet owners to certainly think this way. Veterinarians around the world are also being taught to recommend commercial pet food to clients in particular the ones sold in their own vet clinic.
    Author of
    The Holistic Cat J Coscia informs us that most commercial dry foods are lacking in vital nutrients and loaded with preservatives, by products, artificial flavors and colours. They are high in grains and contain a large amount of carbohydrates. This is the worst diet in particular for cats that need more protein than dogs. (Coscia 2005)
    Other concerns include, who is regulating the pet food companies and what are their minimum standards in both areas of quality and quantity? In Australia we have the PFIAA (Pet Food Industry Association of Australia) that sets all pet food standards throughout the country. Currently the RSPCA are working with PFIAA to develop higher national standards for all commercial pet food. Areas of concern the RSPCA are trying to regulate are:
      Currently, being researched by the RSPCA is imported pet food, which has been linked to severe feline neurological disease causing death. Imported jerky treats being sold in Australia are also under scrutiny as they have been linked to kidney disease in particularly small breeds of dogs. (RSPCA Australia website)
      Hopefully with direction from the RSPCA, commercial pet food will improve their standards and quality of produce. Presently the
      minimum standards for pet food is somewhat questionable and requires long term and ongoing investigation.

      Myth number six states that every meal we feed our pets should be contain all the nutrients required for good health. If only packaged, processed foods can provide a complete balanced diet then maybe we should also be eating bags of dried processed food every mealtime to ensure our own complete and balanced diet?
      Unfortunately, there are millions of dollars being spent on the marketing of pet foods, which claim 'complete and balanced.' The question is how can a food be complete and balanced when it has been highly processed, packaged to last months at a time and produced from highly questionable ingredients? There is also the debatable issue of such ingredients reacting with one another and rendering one another useless?
      Grains used in pet food used to bulk up the quantity are high in herbicides, fungicides and can be carcinogenic. There are also claims that to make pet food more palatable the food, prior to packaging, is sprayed with fats or mixed into canned ingredients. It is questionable if these fats are of any quality or worse still, rancid and if so, possibly carcinogenic (Martin 2008).

      In summary, the big question for caring pet owners is, does a commercial pet food claiming to be balanced, provide the same health benefits of a natural, raw, homemade diet?

      According to Dr Pitcairn, commercial diets include slaughterhouse waste, toxic produce, non-nutritive fillers, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, sugar, drug residue, artificial preservatives and colours (Pitcairn et al 2005).
      In a book called
      Food Pets Die For, author Ann Martin explains in graphic detail the horrors of commercially prepared pet food, which include the rendering process of poor quality animal by-products, rancid fats, dangerous preservatives and poor quality grains in high quantity (Martin 2008).

      In conclusion, the six myths initially introduced by Dr Billinghurst, appears to have been formed not only by competitive pet food companies, but by well intended Veterinarians and pet owners who do not feel capable or inclined to make their pets food themselves.

      I have been feeding my pets on a full raw diet now for the last 6 years. The transition to raw from cooked and processed foods was actually more about confidence and belief in the raw diet rather than the difficulty of making it.

      I do believe the raw diet is the diet of choice for both humans and animals alike. Dr Billinghurst
      s six myths certainly support my understanding of current pet nutrition.

      My own pets are pictures of health and adore their home-prepared food, which I feel is even better quality than the diet I consume myself. At this stage I fully support the raw diet.
      Food is medicine and good health is a direct result of what we put into our body.

      Billinghurst, I 1993,
      Give your dog a bone, Warrigal Publishing, Australia.
      Coscia, J. A, 2005,
      The Holistic Cat, A Complete Guide to Wellness for a Healthier, Happier Cat. North Atlantic Books, USA.
      Martin, A. 2008,
      Food Pets Die For, Shocking Facts about Pet Food. NewSage Press, USA.
      Olson, L 2010,
      Raw & Natural Nutrition for Dogs, The definitive guide to homemade meals. North Atlantic Books, USA.
      Pitcairn, R. H. & Pitcairn, S. H, 2005,
      Dr. Pitcairns guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. Rodale Inc, USA.
      Schenck, P. 2010,
      Home Prepared Dog and Cat Diets Second Edition. Blackwell Publishing, USA.
      Schultze, K.R 2007,
      Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats, The Ultimate Diet. Hayhouse, USA.

      Internet website references:
      RSPCA 2011
      Is the pet food industry regulated in Australia? Viewed 13th August 2011 Last updated: 27 Jan 2011
      Pet MD website 2011, Article by Dr. T.J. Dunn, viewed 14th August 2011
      Pet MD website 2011, Article by Dr. T.J. Dunn, viewed 14th August 2011
      Back to Articles Menu
      Was this useful?