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02 December 2004


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Gil. Ash

Ha. I see myself up there, the one who says, "Just do it" and means it; the "what's wrong with your brain, you feed yourself without a handbook, why not your dog?" approach.

I am willing to grant you the madwomen on either side. Both have a vehement way of making their cases and strong words have a strong effect on uncertain people. If they're caught by the "complete and balanced" crowd of kibble feeders before they can investigate the effects of adding their dog to the list of family members for whom they prepare meals, most likely, they'll never have the nerve to do it.

If they know very well they want to switch from bagged food to fresh and are caught by the raw feeding extremists who will not be happy until, someday, you are loosing your dog on a live mammal and allowing the carcase of the poor critter it brings down to lie out in the back yard, diminishing daily until there's nothing left but hooves or horns as your dog munches on it, one of two things will happen: you'll be incensed at the insult to your intelligence when you're told that you're killing your dog by not feeding only raw food exactly as they tell you to do it and you'll tell them where to get off, or you'll become a junior fanatic yourself.

So far, we're agreed in looking at the ends where the fanatics lie in wait and rave. But I disagree with your conclusions.

You say you like Howard Dean. Well, as I recall, Howard Dean didn't mince words. I can't say as I followed him or anyone else, really, but the impression remains that he put some pretty strong words out there and...captured you. He didn't win enough support from the masses...let's call them kibble feeders who take the easy way out, the unthinking way, the righteous and holy way sanctified by use...to convert them to the raw truth. In this case, political but the game's the same.

Nonetheless, he pricked up some ears, yours among them. And that's the value of strong language: it gets attention. If you don't play the language game, you're don't win. Period.

Language does not have to trigger fear. You don't have to say "you're killing your dog by feeding him from a bag" to convince people. You can tell them that they can do "better", that they can be progressive by thinking outside the bag , and ain't progress what it's all about?

Of course, you have the hurdle to get over that most people do not want to assume the responsibility for their dog's wellbeing beyond a vet visit now and then and the monthly trip to PetsMart. Good grief, they turn their children over to the television and pop them full of anything that science says they should have at the moment, from drugs to keep them docile to shots for every disease under the sun. Most people, IMO (acronym ) cannot find the time to ask themselves why they live as they do, they simply accept that they should do "whatever" and all else falls by the wayside, including their ability to think for themselves. It is not, I'll admit, easy for all of us.

Those like me, one of a rare breed who does not believe a dog has to eat "organic food" or tackle pieces bigger than he is to survive and do well, yet will not feed kibble, having become convinced that it is a low-rent thing to do to a companion you love, use strong language because you not only have to capture attention, you have to project certainty in what you're doing. Admittedly, this approach doesn't work with everyone but who ever could convince everyone? You do what you can.

The fanatic raw feeders understand that you don't start a movement by being reasonable; you appeal to emotion. How did Bush win? I know that some say he cheated this time, too, but if you discount that, then he appealed, not to the mind, but to the gut of all those people who put him back into office. Yes, he appealed to fear but he also played on deeply held and very often unexamined beliefs etched into people from the time they were very small.

Science and advertising do the same thing. The tell you that you are doing your best for your dog by feeding a complete and balanced diet from a bag...and if you don't, the implication is you're not really a a good caregiver. And they make it so easy to be one.

Complete and balanced...there's the mantra. And it makes me want to scream. There is where I completely disagree with you. I will never tell anyone they should feed a balanced diet to their dog, whether it's bagged or prepared with loving hands from scratch. It uses "their" language and plays their game. It keeps people fixated on science as the arbiter rather than nature.

I really hate these little windows to type in, I always seem to lose the thread of what I'm saying, so if this is disjointed, your website is to blame.

Nonetheless, if more people would "just do it", stop worrying about the scientific diet; the tons of supplements that they are convinced are necessary to tweak a diet of raw food into a true source of nourishment; the need for "balance", as if nature ever provided scales and spreadsheets along with prey, dogs in general would be a lot better off. (I realize that presupposes they have common sense and if you want to tackle that presumption, I may be in trouble.)

Being gentle is fine...after you rope them in. You have to convince them first. So, perhaps the extremes have their uses. As one of the raw feeding fanatics once said to me, you can't find the middle until you can see the polar opposites. You can't even see that there is a choice until you're told there is one, so much have we forgotten since the advent of complete and balanced diets.


In all the midst of food confusion, perhaps the answer is in your hands. While nature provides abundent foods, we choose those constructed by man. To start where you came from, is benenficial to you. Since before man harnessed fire, RAW FOODS ARE ALL WE KNEW!


Hi -

I came upon your blog from a link to this post, and was curious to know if you have references as to the subject of cats and vegetarian diets - I'm not sure if you've posted about this elsewhere on your blog, but I'm trying to find info on the subject (pro and con)and, after reading this post, I thought you might be able to suggest a few. I'll check back in the comments - thanks for whatever you might be able to provide.


Cats, as obligate carnivores, are the LEAST vegetarian mammals on the planet. They have dietary requirements for pre-formed amino acids that are available only from animal sources, and have no dietary requirement for carbohydrates at all.

Can a cat be a vegetarian? Sure, as long as you use animal foods other than meat to feed them and the diet is otherwise balanced. I don't advise it and view it as far from optimum, but it can be done. There is no more reason, by the way, to include high levels of carbohydrate in such a diet - or any at all.

Can a cat be a vegan? No. If someone truly cannot bear to feed animal foods to their pets, then they shouldn't keep carnivorous pets. House rabbits are vegeterians and make wonderful pets, for example.

Here are a few citations:

"Cats are strict carnivores that rely on nutrients in animal tissues to meet their specific and unique nutritional requirements. This statement is news to few, yet the importance of these nutritional differences is often underestimated, especially during periods when cats are ill or have prolonged anorexia. In their natural habitat, cats consume prey high in protein with moderate amounts of fat and minimal amounts of carbohydrate (CHO); thus, they are metabolically adapted for higher metabolism of proteins and lower utilization of CHOs (starch, not soluble or insoluble fiber) than dogs or other omnivores. Although cats can use CHOs as a source of metabolic energy, they have limited ability to spare protein utilization by using CHOs instead. Nevertheless, commercial diets are formulated with a mixture of animal- and plant-derived nutrients, most commonly in dry kibble form that requires CHOs for the expansion and cooking process, to provide easy-to-use food for domestic cats. And although cats have adjusted to most manufactured diets, the limitations of substituting animal-origin nutrients with plant-origin nutrients in foods formulated for cats are being increasingly realized. The information reported here is an attempt to describe what it means metabolically and nutritionally to be a strict carnivore, with a focus on differences in nutritional biochemistry of cats. In addition, information is included on possible roles of nutrition in the development of obesity, idiopathic hepatic lipidosis (IHL), inflammatory bowel disease, and diabetes mellitus in cats." ("The carnivore connection to nutrition in cats," Debra L. Zoran, DVM, PhD, DACVIM;
Journal of the American Veterinary Association, December 1, 2002)

"There is no known minimum dietary carbohydrate requirement for either the dog or cat." - The
Waltham Book of Dog & Cat Nutrition (1988), edited by Dr. A. T. B. Edney - (Note - Waltham is a HUGE maker of grain based, high carb cat and dog kibbles. Go figure.)

"Although no known dietary carbohydrate requirement exists for the cat, dry commercial diets usually contain 40 percent or more carbohydrate...
Based on research with chickens, rats and dogs, it is probable that cats can be maintained without dietary carbohydrate if the diet furnishes sufficient fat (and thus glycerol) and protein (containing glucogenic
amino acids) from which the metabolic requirement for glucose can be derived." - Nutrient Requirements of Cats, Revised Edition (1986), published by the National Research Council


Excellent article ... and now that Inova has recently come out with Evo, the 'raw food' high protein [42%], low carb, no grain formula with fresh meats, vegetables, fruits, etc., feeding the raw diet has become much easier and less expensive. And, bottom line, much healthier than the normal fast food diet for dogs!

Teri Johnston

Excellent article one of the best!!

Zuzanna Kubica

That is a very nice article!
I think I might go back to it often when I feel I start loosing patience with people just too afraid to touch a piece of raw meat because they are vegeterian :).
thank you very much!


Innova Evo is not raw food. It is still cooked, it is still highly processed, and it is still kibble, it just contains no grains and less carbs.


Oops, I forgot something pretty important --

My raw food bills would never exceed that of the bills I'd have if I was buying Evo instead. Evo's horribly expensive.


Great job again, Christie, and you've made me a regular reader of this blog of yours. Although I reside in Canada, I find Bush's re-election infuriatingly frustrating, almost so as trying to surf through rescue websites plastered with Dog Chow ads.

Keep up the great work. I realize that you must put extensive time and effort into this site, and I just wanted to let you know that all of who read it are benefited because of it. A pat on the back to you..

a side note....

And yes, Evo IS horribly expensive. And although it is among the top few kibbles I would recommend (let's face it, some people are just not willing to put in the effort required of raw) it's still kibble. It's not fresh, it is processed, and well... do you prefer fresh fruit or dried?

K Hamilton

Picking the Bones of the Raw Diet Debate

Lilli Girvan

Great informative article


I came here via Koufax, and coincidentally, I've just started feeding my dog a non-commercial diet. I've been scouring the internets for info, and as you point out, there's loads of dogma about BARF and raw food. I wasn't even tempted by that, as I'm vegetarian and the opening a can of something is about the closest I'm willing to get to real meat. I live in the UK, and there doesn't seem to be an equivalent of Wysong, Innova, etc. here, or I would go that route, at least occasionally. So far, we're both enjoying the experience, though my daughter is a bit dismayed. She ate some pasta from the fridge, and when I told her I was saving that for the dog, she got a funny look on her face. "You mean I'm eating dogfood?!"

Anyway, I've just started a blog of my own-- http://whatdoiknow.typepad.com and there's some doggy stuff there, too. And lots of political rant as well. Cheers!

maria civetta

I am so against raw pet food. They need animal protein and fat. The lowfat dog and cat foods are CRUEL! Raw veganism is taking over the world and people and animals are suffering because of it. I was fruitarian for twenty years and nearly died. Now that I eat a cheese omelet once a day I have the best health ever. A good website to visit is www.karenkellock.com about the human and animal need for fauna

dogfood: my four dogs live on cheese and dry chunks and are happy, youthful, shiny and vibrant dogs


Maria, you have totally missed the point of this article. Of COURSE they need animal protein and fat! That's what raw feeders FEED to their dogs!

I have no problems giving cheese to dogs. It's the "dry chunks" of kibble I have the problem with, for the same reason you object to veganism for humans.

You need to read this article again. You didn't get it. I don't mind being disagreed with, I DO mind being disagreed with over stuff I never said.

maria civetta

What was it you said? Run it by us again.



The really nice thing about the written word is you can go back and read it again without the author having to repeat him or herself. :)


maria civetta

I think the author misunderstood me. I was not discounting his article but speaking generally. Having come from a rawfoods background I am VERY aware of how raw vegetables are being imposed on dogs ("until they eat it") and even poor cats who need fauna (animal fat and protein) even more. Yes, cats are carnivores and dogs are omnivores but they both do best on animal foods. I used to cook barley and chicken with vegetables for my four dogs and they were filled with every parasite. When I suddenly switched them to cheese and eggs it was like an instant transformation as lazy, dry and lackluster dogs became shiny puppies exuberant with new found energy. This should be such a serious matter to all dog and cat lovers. My vegan neighbor FORCED rice and vegetables on her poor dog who had no personality nor energy whatsoever. When people come to my home they are amazed at these dogs "who are more like people". The vegan will say "but meat makes dogs violent" but I have observed just the opposite to be the case. There are no more fights now, whereas with the starch and veg meals they were always fighting.

maria civetta

I was buying 66 pounds a month of cheddar for me and my six dogs. That went a month but I have learned a new trick, and there is no more constant begging for more cheese: I now put tuna with it. The flesh is so appetite suppressing they don't beg anymore at all. With just a heaping teaspoon full of tuna and melted cheese, they are satiated for six hours or more. This has turned out to be FAR CHEAPER and far more balanced. The question now is: will this sufficiently fill them up so I can delete the kibble? I don't know if you realize how much kibble is required for six HUGE dogs. I can't possibly feed them all cheese, eggs and fish.

maria civetta

(Correction of the above post: I give them far more than a heaping teaspoon of the meat/cheese mixture PER DAY--that was just for "one sitting" I was speaking of above)


Maria, I certainly DO know how much food six dogs eat. Over the last almost-20 years, I have fed a raw homemade diet to as many as 11 dogs, 9 of which were giant breed dogs and two of which were large dogs. Plus my cats!

Meat, cheese, and eggs is not a balanced diet for dogs. All those things are good and healthful foods, but not balanced in that they do not provide the full range of nutrients that a dog requires. The most glaring imbalance is calcium and phosphorus. While cheese does contain calcium, it also contains phosphorus, and calcium and phosphorus need to be in a certain balance for calcium to be assimilated. Meat and eggs are high in phosphorus and contain no calcium - same with tuna.

If you do not feed soft, edible bone in the diet, you need to give a calcium supplement. Ground eggshell, calcium lactate powder, bone meal - something like that.

I also strongly recommend some sort of omega 3 fatty acid supplement, such as fish oil capsules. This is because most modern meat, dairy products, and eggs are way too high in Omega 6 fatty acids, resulting in a pro-inflammatory imbalance of essential fatty acids. Giving extra Omega 3s doesn't do anything about the excess of Omega 6s in gross terms, but it does fix the imbalance.

If you can get the meat, milk, and eggs of 100 percent pasture-raised... NO GRAINS EVER ... animals and chickens, then this is not an issue. But such a food supply is rare.

I would never feed canned tuna to my dogs, but canned mackeral, canned sardines, and canned salmon almost always contain the bones, and these are a wonderful choice. Very nutritious foods for dogs, and they usually love them. Using sardines canned in tomato sauce makes the calcium even more bioavailable to the dogs.

And canned mackeral is quite inexensive, too, which helps when one has large numbers of big dogs.

Hope this helps.

Gabrielle Blackburn


I have a young sheltie who is a little over 14 inches (at the withers) and under 10 pounds. I have been feeding him Nutro puppy food with supplements (such as omega, etc.). He is nothing but ribs, even though I am feeding him about 10 oz. a day. He is a high-energy dog, and he does agility; so, I thought that he must need more calories. I tried increasing his food dosage; but, I accidentally discovered that if I give him 11 oz. a day, he gets sick.

I recently saw his brother who weighed a lot more (a healthy weight) and had a better coat; she told me that he was on a raw diet. I bought a small (trial size) bag of Innova EVO. I would like to slowly start him on a raw diet; but, I am concerned. (I don’t know much about it.) If you have any suggestions as to what might help him, I would be very grateful.

The only thing that concerns me is that my sheltie seems to get sick if I use treats that are high in fat.

Thank you,
Gabrielle Blackburn

-I had another question. My sheltie has a light color coat and his breeder told me it would get darker if I fed him Salmon. This seemed a little odd to me... Have you heard this before or is it an old wives tale? Will Salmon hurt him? Should I buy fresh Salmon or will canned Salmon do the same thing?


I lucked into this blog via 'Snap' search. I love the whole story and had to laugh...at myself...for I am 11 years a 'raw' rah, rah rah! type person. I guess it's partly my personality, and partly cos I saw such a huge difference in my dogs when I switched to the whole prey diet...(whatever you want to call it...within reason) :) It's true. For me it's a 'philosophy' and a 'way of life': that's my bandwagon and I'm stickin' to it.
I have a Jilll Russell terrorist and a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, and a cat ( who live to age 21). God bless them all.


I've always been a cat lover and never knew that cats required the essential amino acids from animal sources. Very well written!

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