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« Spring is for superbugs: New perspectives on managing canine chronic MRSI skin infections | Main | Dear diary... »

31 March 2009

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Anne T

I just opened a new 2 lb roll of Bravo! Beef premix and portioned it out into 6 bowls, added the appropriate supplements for each dog that requires them, then came in here to find another Raw Food discussion on my favorite Blog? Dilemma? What dilemma????

I have been feeding raw for over a decade and my youngest dog is 2nd gen raw. I have a fabulous pic of him at about 5-6 weeks that his breeder sent me, tackling his first chicken wing.

Christie Keith

LOL... I couldn't help it, I went and answered that one.



LOTS of posts removed for violating the Terms of Service!

Christie Keith

Christie, what about cooked meals vs raw? If it’s still real, farm-raised chicken and whatnot, does cooking it first to get past the bacteria arguments negate the nutritional value?



I'm far from a raw foods zealot. I think homemade cooked is just fine, and I'd prefer cooked homemade over raw commercial, actually. I don't think raw has some magic ability to cure stuff.

Anlina Sheng

I think the resistance (or down right outrage) that lots of people express when it comes to raw diets comes from a few different sources.



1. Guilt/denial - as 2CatMom suggested, I think discussion about raw feeding inspires feelings of guilt in people who know they could feed their pets a better diet (or those who have truly never given their pets' diet more than two seconds of actual though.)



Seeing someone else do better makes us more aware of our own short comings and that's not always a comfortable position to be in. It's easy to go from guilt to defensiveness. Better to think that everyone else is wrong than have to accept that you're not making an effort to do your best.



2. People think it's complicated/expensive and can't be bothered. It can be but it doesn't have to be. I doubt anything will be able to beat kibble in a bag for convenience, but a raw diet need not be time consuming or expensive.



I spend maybe 4 hours a month total cutting, weighting and bagging up meat for my three cats. I do it once every 2-3 weeks depending on what kind of stuff I can find when I do my shopping. I could save myself a lot of time cutting by buying pre-cut meats like stewing chunks - but I save myself a but of money and buy whole pork shoulders and other large pieces that require more work.



Averaged out, I spend $1.25 per day to feed all three cats. That's a hell of a lot cheaper than feeding any decent canned food. I also save on vet bills in the long run.



3. People want to believe their vets, because their vets should be believable. And sadly, it seems that despite their expertise in other areas, a lot of vets don't have a clue (or even common sense) when it comes to nutrition.



Couple that with a pet food industry that has everyone convinced that we'll kill our pets if we try to feed them at home and we have a lot of sources telling us that the only safe and healthy way to feed out pets is with commercial processed food.



4. We live in a germophobic culture. Between disease scares and a cleaning products industry that would have us believe that every surface on the planet is just crawling with filthy bacteria poised to kill us the second we neglect to disinfect, disinfect, disinfect, the idea of feeding raw can be pretty scary.



We've always been told not to eat raw meat, to wash our hands after touching raw meat, to make sure we wash the cutting board after cutting meat on it; terrified by stories of trichinosis, salmonella, ecoli & toxoplasmosis because a friend of a friend of a friend once ate a piece of undercooked meat and died (never mind that trich is hardly even a concern anymore); and had our fears buoyed by images from advertisers conflating raw meat and dirty rags and sponges in terms of dirtyness.



No wonder the idea of feeding dirty filthy raw meat to our pets sounds like dangerous crazy talk. :P



5. "My cat ate nothing but dry Meow Mix his whole life and it never hurt him." For a lot of people, until they are directly affected in a negative way they just can't accept that there's anything wrong with the status quo.



Also, unless there is a sudden and highly visible issue like the pet food recalls and hundreds of fatalities, people don't make the connection between the cause (over processed pet food with inappropriate ingredients from questionable sources) and effect (diabetes and all kinds of other diseases that are so common but that should not be.)



And I guess we can't discount the fact that people in general are also resistant to change and things which challenge the status quo. Even things which have amazingly good marketing backing them up meet resistance, and raw feeding is very grassroots - there's no corporations dumping millions of dollars into marketing campaigns to convince people that raw is the way to go.

Gina Spadafori

I thought it waw funny that one of the commenters over on SFGate.com asked who was paying Christie to write about home-prepared diets.



Seriously ... who the hell would? When you're looking at a diverse diet from diverse small regional, sustainable and humane sources, there's just isn't any marketing/advertising money to drop on spokesmodels. (Not that we would do that, anyway!)



My dogs this morning ate steamed yams, cottage cheese, pureed kale and shredded apple, as did the parrot and the chickens. I'll be sure to bill the kale lobby for mentioning it! Or maybe the organic farmers market, where I bought the greens, yams and apples.



We always laugh at that stuff. Like when people accuse us of being "AKC lobbyists" because we fight against forced spay-neuter (because, duh, it kills more pets than it saves, drives pet-owners underground and inserts the gov't into a MEDICAL decision).



As Christie says, "If I'm on the take, where's my damn check?!"



In the mail, one presumes. Has been and forever will be, apparently.

Ark Lady

The key to all this is variety and moderation in all things.



When I was younger pets got raw bones (not too much gum and teeth problems in our pets) and scraps from the table too...they even hunted some of the yard invaders and ate them!



Veterinarians are not given a whole lot of training in nutrition (or behavior unless it is a specialty) and you have to question the incentives to sell foods that are only available via a veterinary clinic.



In the wild animal field we always fed raw and when nutritionists came on board it was a good thing but we balanced organ meats with others for the carnivores with whatever contents might be in the gut too.



Quality of ingredients and handling are key.



I've fed raw, mixed, and commercial diets. When you see the detox animals go through when they are moved from one to the other--it makes you wonder.



Back in the mid-1990s our clinic in San Diego offered appointments with a holistic vet, a canine and feline raw food nutritionist, innovative behavior therapy and training, animal communicators, and cryobanking--along with storing cells for future clones...boy were we considered heretics.



It is nice to see things progressing but Australia was doing raw diets in a big way in the early 1990s and we are still arguing over such things.



Personally, I think marketing and sales incentives are behind a lot of the "premium" brands...and you pay more sometimes for packaging and advertising with the non-premium brands.



If you look at the ingredients, where they come from, etc., it makes sense to seek a better option for pets.



But even our feline veterinarian has the mantra--variety and moderation--and I have to agree...add convenience and that is what I think motivates most people.

Christie Keith

I thought it waw funny that one of the commenters over on SFGate.com asked who was paying Christie to write about home-prepared diets.



ROFL... I'm SO glad I didn't see that. But if I did, the answer is really quite simple: SFGate.com did.



What part of "writer" do they not understand?

Linda Kaim

For many, if not most, it's a matter of convenience. Many of the dogs I see are morbidly obese and are fed the standard packaged-for-human-consumer fare from the local grocery store or box store.



For others, it is a matter of economics and what they don't realize is the money they spend on a better quality food or self-prepared food will save them loads on the back end from the vet.



Dunno what the answer is, but I think it is ironic that people cannot see the parallels in the production and consumption of human and pet products when if they took the time to look on the labels they might be surprised that the company manufacturing their breakfast cereal is the one making their dog food!

Gina Spadafori

Andrea ... I think your observation is spot-on and insightful.



I must note, however, that even best intentions (for me) don't mean I'm by any means "perfect." Life just wouldn't be as sweet without the occasional slice of pizza (sharing crust wih the pets) or a big ol' Brat at the ball game.

Christie Keith

I know; they're just blind. As Marion says again and again, we only have ONE food supply. We also have only ONE economy, ONE road system, ONE air we breathe, ONE agricultural system, etc. Saying "it's just a pet" makes absolutely no sense.



Sure, some things we do can be described as being all or mostly "just about pets," but far fewer than most of these people suggest. How we breed, raise, obtain, train, feed, and exercise our pets -- and how we make their medical care decisions -- all have impacts on society, the humans who own those animals, or both. It's virtually impossible to find one single pet issue that's "just about pets."

Gina Spadafori

For me, the choice is about exactly the same issues as in my own diet: I choose sources for myself and my pets that are regional, sustainable and practice humane husbandry. (For me, I eat little meat, but that's not a legitimate choice for the dogs and the cats.)



The ranting on your column over on SFGate.com -- the it's just a pet, people! regulars -- miss the point that ALL consumer purchases have an impact. That's why I support small business over chain or big box stores, regional over overseas and companies with good records for treating employees and customers well.



If that costs a little more, so be it. I buy less crap, more quality and in line with my values. In terms of total spending, I think it works out about the same ... except my money is working to support what I believe in.

Jenny

2CatMom, I'm with you... I know I could improve what I feed my pets, but the convenience of pre-packaged meals that I simply scoop into their dishes is very appealing, especially during the morning rush and the evening collapse! I make a point to select dry & wet foods that contain healthy ingredients (as opposed to by-products) but I know I could do better with REAL food. Christie, what about cooked meals vs raw? If it's still real, farm-raised chicken and whatnot, does cooking it first to get past the bacteria arguments negate the nutritional value? (Not only the bacteria thing but handling raw meat just kinda squiks me out.)

2CatMom

I think a lot of the negative comments stem from people not wanting to acknowledge shortcomings in their own diets let alone their pets.



As you know, I don't feed raw or homemade and I'm not always great with my own diet (way too many Lean Cuisines). However, I have no problem with other people feeding raw and eating local organic when possible.



My bottom line is - its your money and your time - and you are most likely doing a better job feeding your pets than I am. You are certainly doing a better job feeding yourself. But I don't see a need to be defensive or rude about it.



I view you as the champion marathon runner of pet (& human) food purchasers. By feeding high end, no grain, no animal-byproduct pet food, and going to the farmer's market in the summer, I'd put myself in the moderate jogger category (ok, I don't jog, but I do bike and do pilates).



I think the 'couch potatoes' who buy their pet food at the grocery/big box pet store don't want to acknowledge that they could be doing better by their pets (and themselves if they are eating loads of cheap convenience food).

Stephanie

For those who keep thinking that raw is so much harder... there's a LOT of pre-made raw out there that is really not much more difficult than feeding kibble.



One of my three dogs eats raw because he's allergic to chicken, and switching to raw has fixed literally 2 years of constant ear problems, plus allowed us the ability to learn what he was allergic to.



A local butcher makes a pre-made ground raw that's cheap (important, since I'm in Canada, and meat here tends to be really expensive). Every 3 - 4 days, we grab a few blocks of it (it's frozen in roughly 1 pound blocks), chop them into two pieces, stick them in the fridge in reusable tupperwares. Takes 5 minutes.



Every day, we grab one, float it in some warm water to get it to room temperature, dump in dog bowl. Done. One more step than with kibble.



I'm not saying everyone should switch to raw, but like many other things, it can be as easy or as complicated as you make it.

jen

I'm not sure the fuss by anyone, up until about 40 years ago, most pets were fed table scraps almost exclusively.

Original Lori

Speaking of human grade treats--I bought some turkey dogs at the turkey farm the other day, popped them in the dehydrator for about 24 hours, cut into bites. Kasey went WILD for them, I think they'll be a perfect treat for when we start Rally on Monday.



It's very hard, I think, to take a look at something you've been doing for years and realize you could have been doing it better all that time. Nobody likes to feel that they've failed their pet or past pets in some way. Change is tricky for most, myself included.

Sarah

I'm just always amazed at people who will comment against something without having done any research. Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but i only respect it if you're not ignorant.

Me, i feed a grain free, locally made, organic kibble. One day i'll transition to raw, it's just not in my timetable currently.

Pai

My favorite comment was the one person going on about how milk is actually 'deadly' to cats. Who knew?!



Coming in second is the person arguing that 'of course eating raw meat is more dangerous and unhealthy than pet food -- just look at how much shorter the lifespans of wild carnivores are!'

Barb

That was hilarious that someone thought Christie was on the take for writing about homemade diets.. duh! Next thing she's going to write about the benefits of fresh air and will be accused of getting paid by the Wind Power industry or something.



The diversity and lack of any big, centralized financial interest is also the reason so little actual research has been done - or at least done impartially - regarding raw and/or homemade diets. No one company or even industry would benefit from an upsurge in the number of households feeding homemade diets to pets, so no one will fork out the big bucks for research.



But vets - and others - often list the lack of research among the reasons to not feed raw. As if there were some conspiracy, or a lot of hidden negative results out there instead of a simple lack of funding.

Kim

Props to Christie for tackling the subject mainstream (even though I'm still not sure what all the fuss is about). I particularly approve of the use of the cattle dog photo. :O) Way to go!



If I had a dollar for every time each day someone used the term "dog food" and "people food" while talking to me, I would NOT have to work ever again.



When will the realization come... it's all just FOOD?!



Feed what you will - but do so with open eyes and proper research so you have some idea of what you're talking about. I love when people rebut the raw food argument with examples like Purina or Science Diet... hehehe.



Personally, we feed a local grain free, preservative free, GMO free kibble, with added fresh food every day and the occasional can of quality canned grain free human quality food. All of our treats are "human grade" (you should see the look on people's faces when we tell them they taste good... and we know because we try ALL of them - seriously, would you feed it to your dog if it wasn't safe for you?) and one of our dogs is on a raw diet currently as a trial for allergies.



Of course, this is after 12 years of feeding raw food and simply not being able to keep up with the number of carnivores in the house needing food every day...



We chose our kibble only after personally interviewing the nutritionist on staff, speaking at length with several CS reps, and taking a tour of their factory and getting an up close view of all safety measures and testing procedures. Crazy much? Maybe... and I'm not suggesting this is necessary for everyone who feeds kibble, obviously - but it says something when that's what it took for us to be comfortable enough with a company for them to gain our trust.



What can I say, 12+ years of studying nutrition and the pet food system makes one cynical, to say the least.

Rebecca

Just think about it: Dogs originated from wolves. Did you ever see a wolf frying his 'steak' in a pan?!

Very good literature regarding this subject & much more, can be found in Juliette de Baîracli Levy's book The Complete Herbal Handbook For The Cat & Dog

Gina Spadafori

Rebecca, I'm curious: As the descendant of hunter-gatherers who ate their food uncooked, is your diet "raw"?



And if not, why not?



Don't offer soundbites. Offer evidence.

Rebecca

Gina, I was talking about dogs, who do have different stomachs to hunter-gatherers (which in general, we are far from being these days) & I was talking about raw meat for dogs, but as you're asking... No, my diet is not totally raw, who likes or could digest raw yams or kale? I do however often eat raw vegetables. Hunter gatherers did also one day discover fire... I think however the point of the discussion is more about eating well, whether it be humans or animals, raw or cooked, just avoid processed food as much as possible.

Gina Spadafori

Rebecca ... I'm in TOTAL agreement with avoiding processed foods as much as possible, for me and for my animals. I think the key is fresh whole foods, not necessarily raw foods.

Susan Fox

Anyone who thinks that feeding a domestic dog raw domestic feedlot finished beef or industrially raised food of any kind resembles,in any conceivable way, what wild canids like wolves eat is kidding themselves, if not delusional.

Christie Keith

As you know, I'm a big fan of SHOW ME THE SCIENCE and I think that there are many excellent ways to feed a dog. I'm not dogmatic at all.



But dogs DID evolve eating prey. Evolution takes a very, very long time and the tiny little minute we've been breeding and changing the dog doesn't add up to "evolution."



Dogs and wolves ARE the same species and they share an evolutionary history.



That doesn't mean a raw diet is the only or even optimal way to feed a dog... I'm just saying that evolution is what the species did, not what the fragment of the species we've tinkered around with has done in a relatively short period of time, evolutionarily speaking.

Rebecca

Susan, where is your sense of humour? it was just an amusing image that came to mind!... Dogs should eat raw meat, their entire anatomy being adapted for a meat diet, from the teeth fashioned for tearing & crushing, powerful jawbones & muscles, the small, very muscular stomach, the short intestines (to avoid putrefaction of flesh foods) &, above all, the very powerful digestive juices that can dissolve even lumps of bone. In health, the dog's juices, both of mouth & stomach, are strongly antiseptic & thus 'high' meat & even flesh from diseased animals - food which would kill a human in a day - can be eaten without harmful effects. Meat of an unnatural (very inflamed) colour should be avoided, a dog will usually reject it. Raw meat, fed in lumps, exercises to full capacity both the muscular stomach, the intestines & the digestive juices. Dogs void what they eat in approximately 8 hours, compared to us who take approx 48hrs.

Susan Fox

Rebecca, cite your sources. Preferably a peer-reviewed journal, not someone's wishful thinking.



The feral domestic dogs I've seen in places like Mongolia and Kenya have been hanging around human habitation scouring human garbage for a meal or begging anywhere where people are.



Dog predation on wild argali sheep in Mongolia by animals belonging to the herders, who live near and in the reserve I visited, is a conservation issue, but the discovery of it as a factor was a surprise to the research scientists because it was unexpected, knowing the dogs' normal habits. And I don't know if the sheep were eaten or if the predation happens mostly in the spring when everything is hungry and the lambs were being born.



Given that the herder's dogs (Tibetan Mastiffs, or TM mixes) have the freedom to roam a country twice the size of Texas, with next to no fences, and can hunt whatever moves whenever they want, they choose to stay with their humans and eat whatever leftover (cooked) meat and offal is thrown their way. Mongolian country people eat meat, cooked. Not into raw and not much into vegetables. Nothing quite like a big pot of sheep parts (all the parts) simmering away on the ger stove.(No, I passed, politely)



Humans created dogs. If dogs are left to themselves, they don't turn back into wolves, they equalize out into a vaguely yellow, medium-sized prick-eared canid, like a dingo or Carolina dog.

Susan Fox

There's no question that they are essentially carnivores for the reasons you state. It's the, dare I say it (why not?) dogmatic position of some people that is a real turnoff. Anytime something is presented as The One True Way, you can be reasonably certain that it's not.

Lis

Dogs did not evolve eating raw. Wolves evolved eating raw. Dogs evolved eating human leftovers--mostly cooked.



What separates the dogs from the wolves is that dogs live with humans, and eat mostly what humans provide. That's why hooking up with humans was a good deal; the wolves that did so had a more secure food supply and greater reproductive success because hunting cooperatively was more successful than each species hunting separately.



And hominids had fire at least 1.6 million years ago, well before the earliest date that humans and wolves may have first teamed up. So as soon as the wolves who were the ancestors of dogs hooked up with humans, they were eating cooked food, not exclusively yet, but as a significant part of their diet.



Arguments that dogs evolved eating raw and therefore a raw diet is the only "natural" choice for feeding dogs, stands reality on its head.

Christie Keith

I agree and would go even further: There IS no one true way. Part of the reason dogs are so successful in domestication is that they can thrive on such a varied diet.



Of course, when pet food companies use that as an excuse to feed them absolute crap, I'll be there to call BS, but still... as a 23+ year raw feeder I have to say that most of the time, "my side" makes me want to cover my ears and go la la la I can't hear you...

Rebecca

Gina, no I don't have retrievers, I have a black cat! Since my 2nd entry, I have only talked about raw meat, not the other foods dogs need, being raw. As I don't live in the States I was unaware that 'bloggers' (whatever that means?) feed raw dehydrated kibble' to their dogs, they must be mad. I think a lot of people have forgotten what good food & eating are all about & how to do it. In order to have a healthier food chain a lot of people need to first think about why we need good healthy food. It disgusts me what mankind has done to the food chain & the rubbish they try & fob off on us (both in verbal & food form.

Raw (or cooked, for us) meat should of course be from a sustainable source. Maybe you all have a problem with finding clean, healthy, slaughtered meat in the States so are hesitant on feeding it raw? Whatever you give to your dog, apart from the meat, you should theoretically be able to eat it yourself, even though you might not like the taste of it!

Gina Spadafori

The bloggers are the writers here.



We don't feed "raw dehydrated kibble." Among our ranks are people who feed raw, people who feed dehydrated raw, people who feed cooked meat, and people who feed kibble. As well as people who feed a variety of these things, as I do.



As for us being mad, well ... we've been called worse.

Rebecca

Susan, none of what I have said, or not said (see other comments made), is wishful thinking & maybe you'd care to go back to comment 21, where you will find my source plus of course personal experience and my imagination (see further on!...)

I stumbled upon this page quite by accident the other day & read with interest as I love to cook & eat good food & do like wise with my cat. What sprung to mind was passing messages on about the importance of good food regardless whether it be for animal or human & having a healthy attitude about it. As the page talked primarily about dogs, my imagination of course went to the wolf & then to a frying pan & a steak. Do you get where I'm coming from with this image?.. Today's society of 'Wolves invading the food chain'! Pictures speak louder than words... it certainly got everyone going & with everyone's comments we are all hopefully the wiser!!... Thanks

Gina Spadafori

Meat of an unnatural (very inflamed) colour should be avoided, a dog will usually reject it.



Comment by Rebecca — May 13, 2009



You must not have retrievers.



I was talking about dogs, who do have different stomachs to hunter-gatherers (which in general, we are far from being these days)



Comment by Rebecca — May 13, 2009



But your logic is the same. WE were once something else. Shouldn't we be eating as we used to be? And aren't DOGS far from what they once were these days?



We have bloggers here who feed raw, kibble, dehydrated raw ... everything, in other words. I myself feed them as I feed myself, with as much sustainable, humane, regional and (when possible) organic whole food -- raw and not raw. (Although of course they eat a much higher percentage of meat in their diet than I do!) But they also get good-quality "convenience" foods, as I do.



And I HAVE thought about it, lots. When you come in with sound bites good for singing to the choir, you don't advance a cause. Life is not that simple, and feeding the products of industrial agriculture -- raw, cooked or processed -- isn't anything like what any of us used to eat, human or dog.



I'm on a local raw-food list where they're always sharing "deals" -- a sale on factory farmed chicken, for example. No thanks! Canids deal better with salmonella and e coli than I do, but there's nothing "natural" about this "product."



Think beyond the dog to a healthier food chain for us all.

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