Raw Feeding (Sometimes referred to as the BARF diet)
At Klancraig we believe in feeding our dogs a raw diet (sometimes referred to as a BARF diet – bones and raw food or biologically appropriate raw food) that is a species appropriate diet; in other words we feed our dogs as close to how they would have fed in the wild as possible.
The earliest remains that have been found of domesticated dog date back to around 12,000 to 14,000 years ago, although DNA tests have suggested that dogs may have been domesticated for far longer, perhaps even as far back as 100,000 years. During this time they would have been expected to hunt and fend for themselves, whilst also enjoying any scraps left by their human companions. As time progressed domesticated dogs would have depended more and more on the diet provided for them which would have undoubtedly consisted of leftover animal carcasses and ‘table’ scraps. The concept of a ‘complete’, balanced kibble diet is a relatively new one considering that even our Grandparents will confirm that their dogs were fed on whatever fresh, raw bones and scraps that the local butcher was able to provide together with the kitchen and table leftovers (raw and cooked). Given the timescales involved how can anyone truly believe that in a few short generations, dogs have suddenly evolved from thriving on a diet which had served them well for thousands of years to one which has only been developed some fifty or so years ago?
Ironically, why at a time when people are being encouraged to return to basic nutritional values including a return to fresh fruit and vegetables, wholesome dairy products and free range meats and are warned to steer clear of convenience foods which are full of additives, colourants and preservatives is the pet food industry trying to convince us that ‘complete’ pet foods are good for our pets?
When I was a child our dogs were never ill and they lived to a ripe old age. They never had worms or fleas. They didn’t have bad breath or skin problems or regular bouts of diarrhoea. Now as an adult and a professional dog groomer I frequently come across dogs who are old before their time, dogs which have that ‘particular’ smell because they have a skin condition and/or sore ears and feet, customers whose dogs seem prone to fleas and ticks and are horrified when you have to tell them that their dog was infested, dogs who at a very early age are on a prescription diet from the vet since they suffer from upset tummies at the drop of a hat and dogs whose teeth are thick with tartar and whose breath smells rank.
Along with skin problems, digestive disorders and obesity, periodontal disease is one of main problems encountered by veterinarians. Unfortunately owners often trivialise the problem by thinking that it is just a case of discoloured teeth and bad breath when in fact what they fail to consider is that the build up of calculus on the teeth creates bacteria which is ingested by the dog and which then goes on to cause other problems which can be wide spread throughout the body.
A dog fed on a variety of raw meaty bones, raw minces, fresh offal, eggs, fish, fruit and vegetables can often avoid many of these complications. In particular feeding raw meaty bones is beneficial since it is this which helps to prevent the build-up of tartar and keeps teeth and gums healthy. The idea is not to feed a balanced diet with each meal but by feeding a wide variety of different meats, combined with the offal, eggs, fish, fruit and vegetables a balanced diet is achieved over a period of time.
How we feed our dogs
Our dogs have been fed a raw diet since 2002 and since then we have spent much time learning how best to feed a ‘raw diet’.
As with any diet, dietary requirements may vary from dog to dog and breed to breed but the one thing that should be kept in mind is that you are not trying to feed a balanced diet with each meal but to achieve a balance over time which is done by feeding a wide variety of different raw bones (optional), minces (some of which will need to contain ground bone if whole bone is not being fed), offal, fish and eggs and some people like to feed fruit and vegetables. The key fact to remember is that each dog is different – they require different daily amounts (and this can vary according to hormones or activity levels too) and enjoy or tolerate different foods.
Raw Meaty Bones (rmbs):
One of the first questions that I am asked about feeding our dogs a raw diet is whether it is safe to feed whole bone. It is NOT safe to feed COOKED bones which have become hard and brittle during the cooking process but raw bones are softer and can be digested by your dog. When we refer to rmbs this DOES NOT include weight bearing bones which are only fed as recreational bones and not as part of a raw diet and the emphasis is on the word MEATY.
Obviously, in feeding raw whole bone to your dog he will benefit from the exercise to jaw and neck muscles, not to mention the benefit to his teeth but if you are at all worried about feeding whole bone it is possible to feed bone in a ground form in a mince. The calcium and minerals that they receive from bone whether whole or ground are an essential part of their diet.
Our dogs are fed a raw minced meal in an evening - lamb, beef, tripe, venison to name a few.
Fruit and Veggies:
We also occasionally feed a small quantity of fruit and vegetables. Some ‘raw feeders’ prefer not to feed these since they do not think them necessary to a dog's diet. Our dogs however love them and will line up to wait for a treat when we are preparing vegetables and fruit for our own meals. We view feeding our dogs fruit and vegetables as an opportunity to feed them additional vitamins and minerals.
We do not routinely supplement our dogs since we believe that if they are fed a wide variety of food types over a period of time, supplements are not necessary. That is not to say that supplements may not be beneficial under certain circumstances – for example, elderly dogs with arthritis.
Changing your dog to a raw diet:
There are two ways that you can switch your dog to a raw diet – either add small amounts of raw mince to your dog’s existing diet and over a period of time increase the mince and decrease the kibble OR make the decision to stop feeding the kibble and move straight over to a raw diet. Older dogs or dogs with a compromised immune system might benefit by being gradually switched to a raw diet but this is not always the case.
If you decide to switch your dog over to a raw diet straight away as opposed to doing it gradually we would recommend keeping the diet simple, starting off with one or two types of minces (at least one containing ground bone) and no whole bone. Introduce a variety of minces gradually when you know that your dog can tolerate what it is being fed and once your dog is happy being fed a variety of minces, you may wish to start adding whole bone (and reducing the mince that contains ground bone).
Introduce offal, fish, eggs, fruit and vegetables gradually.
The current veterinary protocol for vaccinations can be found on the website for the World Small Animal Veterinary Association website http://www.wsava.org/guidelines/vaccination-guidelines which advocates TRI-ANNUAL vaccinations for core vaccines. Should your vet insist on annual boosters you should direct them to this website.
However, the subject of vaccinations for dogs is a contentious one and there is a growing debate concerning the safe use and effectiveness of vaccines for dogs. Please refer to the ‘vaccine section’ of the Canine Health Concern site which discusses this subject extensively.
At Klancraig our dogs are ‘minimally vaccinated' since it is our belief that a dog fed a species appropriate diet combined with the minimal use of vaccines and other chemical pesticides (flea and worm treatments) has an immune system which is strong enough to fight most diseases and we will continue with this practice until such a time as a proven, safe and effective protocol for vaccinating dogs is forthcoming.
It is possible to 'titer test' your dog to assess the status of his or her immune system to determine whether a vaccine 'booster' is required. The following is an excellent link which explains what titer tests are and how they can be used to prevent over-vaccination http://www.canine-epilepsy-guardian-angels.com/titer_test.htm
However, an alternative to conventional vaccination is the homeopathic nosode. See Natural Animal Health for a list of vets that offer alternative therapy.
See also www.thedapperdog.com/vacc1.html - which is a two part article (Part I; Efficacy and Part II; Safety) written by Dr Will Falconer DVM who is a member of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, and the National Center for Homeopathy. He writes articles for national pet magazines in the States and medical journals, gives public lectures to animal owners, and shares homeopathic case reports with conventional and holistic veterinarians. He enjoys a full-time classical homeopathic practice in Austin, Texas.
To neuter or not to neuter, that is the question?
At Klancraig we make the decision to neuter or spey our dogs and bitches on an individual basis, although on the whole we lean towards them being left entire. There are arguments for and against this decision and we are happy to discuss this with you in greater detail. However, there are significant concerns over neutering both sexes before puberty, indeed before 14 months of age but if pets are to be kept entire for life, owners are reminded of the need to be vigilant and so avoid accidental matings.
Alternative treatments and natural remedies