Questions & Answers
In short, yes raw meaty bones are vitally important for your dog’s health. By the end of this article I hope to have dispelled some worries you may have and make your confidence in feeding bones flourish. Bones really are that important.
The risks – As a raw feeder myself I know the risks of feeding bones, but I also know the positives well and truly out-weigh the negatives. This makes my worries no more. Once you too gain an understanding your worries will fade. Let’s talk about some of the risks and managing them.
Vomiting is something dogs do much more than humans and the sound of heaving and the smell can turn many stomachs. Most dogs will happily turn around and eat what they bring up. This is fine for them to do so because some dogs eat fast and gulp their food, leading to them bringing it up for another chew (regurgitation) eeewww I know. Feeding large pieces of carcass is the best option because they need to chew and tear the meat off the bone, this helps them eat slower. If your dog vomits when eating a particular food type, say beef for example, this could mean they have a sensitivity and taking this out of their diet will be beneficial. Although, if your dog vomits and appears unwell or you are struggling to distinguish the difference between regurgitation and vomiting, then please call your vet.
Chocking/Blockages are a big worry for people, and this is a fear I hear a lot. Be at ease, most instances happen because small bones are fed to big dog, for example, giving a chicken neck to a Labrador. The easiest way to avoid this is to give bones that are large and take much tearing and chewing. The chances of dogs chocking on kibble (I’ve witnessed this personally), toys, plastic bones and raw hide are much more prevalent, and in my opinion, should be of more concern.
Constipation is another common question I get asked and compared to sloppy kibble fed dogs stool. The stool of a raw meaty bone fed dog is a third the size and a solid mass the dog finds hard to shift. But be at ease, this struggle strengthens muscles and alleviates anal glands. Feeding offal and vegetable matter will help keep your dog regular. If your dog really does seem to be struggling and you don’t see a bowel movement then please call your vet because a problem might be apparent. I’m glad that’s the negatives out the way and now we can get down to why raw meaty bones are so important to your dog’s health.
Types of bones appropriate for feeding dogs and how – All bones fed to dogs have to be raw, cooked bones are dangerous and should not be fed under any circumstances. Most bones are perfectly safe for dogs to consume. For example, whole carcasses (rabbit, chicken, pheasant, partridge etc.) and non-weight baring bones for example necks, ribs, pelvic or vertebrae are great to offer. These are soft bones and don’t take much for the dog to crunch and are easy to digest. However, dinosaur bones like large herbivore limbs, should only be used for the animals to tear the flesh off (recreational). This is because these bones are very hard and could damage teeth, along with the possibility to cause blockages if the dog swallows large pieces of the dense bone. Dogs should always be monitored when feeding any types of bones and sometimes they may need some encouragement to chew and tear. One way is to hold meat and bones with pliers and let your dog pull and tear to encourage him to consume the raw meaty bones correctly.
Calcium and phosphorus – We all hear a lot about calcium especially when it comes to how much, too much or too little. Calcium is vitally important to our canine and with a diet consisting of around 40-60% raw meaty bones there’s no need for supplementation and your dog will be receiving enough calcium from their food source. Calcium helps with maintaining healthy bones and teeth, activating digestive enzymes, the production of bodily energy, helping blood clots and the transmission of nerve impulses, regulating contractions, relaxation of muscles and the heart also the absorption of vitamin b12. Phosphorous is also vitally important but we see much more imbalances here and dogs with too much phosphorous are seen more regularly. Phosphorous binds with calcium and too much can deplete calcium reserves causing problems. Luckily raw meaty bones are your saviour here and the correct ratio of calcium 1:1 phosphorous are found readily available in natural sources.
Teeth and your canines health – I personally get all excited when I see a canine open his mouth to see a spectacular set of pearly white teeth. Teeth are so important to us all and keeping them gleaming is at the front of the assault against keeping health problems at bay. I think we can all relate to watching a car break a few hundred yards ahead and by the time it gets to you everyone is breaking hard and causing a nuisance. The effect is all much the same with our dog’s teeth. Once you see tartar build up occur it can become a nuisance and cause problems to your dog and his health. Prevention is worth a ton of cure, preventing the build-up of tartar will save your bank account.
Your little puppy comes home, I hope no earlier than 8 weeks of age, and should have already lost their milk teeth between 3-6 weeks of age. One set of teeth have shedded but before you sit back, at about 4 months of age your pup will start to attain all 42 adult teeth over a period of a few months. Simultaneously losing their temporary teeth gained weeks earlier and at this time offering an abundance and variety of raw meaty bones is very important and will help no end preventing your new puppy chewing furniture and feeding bowls. Chewing on natural meaty bones aids to help the little carnivore dispel his deciduous teeth. Unfortunately, many little carnivores don’t have this privilege and consume a commercial diet. This will have those little teeth hanging on bleeding gums and will impair on the adult teeth coming though naturally. Keeping your dog’s teeth healthy will keep his body healthy and should always be offered meat on the bone where possible for maximum cleaning action. 75% of dogs on a commercial diet end up with dental problems by the age of 3 years while 100% of dogs over the age of 12 years suffer with some kind of gum disease, minor or serious. This is scary considering the regular dental visits you’ll be needing to make and the possibility of dental diseases. Having tartar build up on the teeth can enable bad bacteria to leak up into the gums and pass through into the blood stream inhibiting the immune system which, instead of fighting bacteria cause by a bad diet, should be concentrating on repairing degeneration around the body for longevity and life. Gum disease can also have an effect on the liver and kidneys and often with fatal consequences.
Could you imagine your dentist selling you nothing but the same bag or stew in a can for months on end, telling you this will clean your teeth and create great dental hygiene? Mmmm…. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I wouldn’t follow that advice.
Raw meaty bones promote health – When you next sit gazing at your dog like some of us do, try to take notice of his nose that protrudes far in front of his eyes with large flaps of skin covering their trade mark tools. These 42 sharp teeth varying in size are perfectly designed to cause optimal damage. They use them for holding, tugging, nibbling and grooming while also being ideal for tearing through hide, tendons, flesh and bone in a scissor like action. This scissor action is proven to clean teeth and even kibble manufactures state the need for bones to clean teeth. While ground bones are sufficient in ready-made “completes” (10%), they don’t offer the cleaning capability of raw meaty bones. Offering chicken, duck, or rabbit carcasses and maybe wings, ribs, necks etc. must be a health promoting addition to most diets. Start introducing raw meaty bones and you will soon learn your dog’s bone tolerances and see gleaming teeth while promoting a healthy mouth.
Thank you for reading
How much do you feed yourselves and how much do you feed your children? I’ve not yet come across anyone who measures out every ounce of every meal to create the complete and balanced one meal that you can eat every day of your whole life and expect to be healthy. However, balance over time is one option most choose and I believe this is the key. When looking at our dogs, choose to notice their body definition and look towards achieving optimal steady weight throughout their life. You want your dogs to be carrying little fat, have great muscle definition throughout body with silky shiny coat and healthy glowing eyes. When looking over your dog, run both your hands down their sides and over the ribs. Can you lightly feel the ribs over your figure tips? Great. Also, when looking over your dog is there a slight cove between the hips and ribs? Great. The idea is to keep your dog looking sleek and healthy. This will reward you generously later in their life and give you many more years playing. If you have a vet you trust, ask them for their opinion and I’m sure they will be more than happy to advise.
Body Score – The ideal would be ribs easily palpable with minimal fat covering, waist easily seen when viewed from above. Abdominal tuck evident.
Confusion over percentages – Percentages are only guide lines and are there for you to use but not to become obsessed with. When starting out, the 80/10/10 “prey model” approach is a good guide to start with. However, I cannot emphasize enough that this is only a guide line. In my opinion 10% bone is, by far, not enough for many dogs.
The rule of thumb is feed your dog between 2-3% of their desired weight or predicted adult body weight. This is the starting line and you should feed more or less depending on the way your dog performs and looks. I take my hat off to those who seek to feed the entire prey model and include all parts of the prey. This has to be as close as anyone’s going to get to feeding a natural diet. If we look at a fish and its offal, bone and meat content it varies massively compared to something like a large mammal. There is only 8% bone in a rabbit but yet 17% bone in an elephant. Watch your dog’s stools to see if they need more or less fibre. (Bone, vegetables and fruit are a source of fibre for our raw fed dogs). If your dog has sloppy stools you need more bone. On the other hand, if they are white you’ve probably gone a bit over the top with bone. I feed my dogs approx. 50% Raw Meaty Bones and half my dogs dish will always be filled with carcasses, necks, ribs or wings etc. Offal should be fed at around the 10% mark, and variety is always key. Try to feed as big a variation of excreting organs as possible. Liver is important and should make up half the offal offered. Heart, Tripe, lungs or more muscle meat etc. can be offered at about 15-20% of the diet. 15% can be made up of vegetables, fruits and seeds. If vegetables, fruits or seeds are not in your dog’s diet simply use the 80/10/10 model as your starting point and adjust as needed. Supplements can make up some of the diet but be mindful with supplements because they can cause imbalances. Balance should be created over a period of 2-3 weeks. Feeding all these ingredients and keeping everything varied is your best chance at the Complete and Balanced diet the professionals advise. Keep a close eye on your dog and the amounts you are feeding, making slight changes where necessary.
Over feeding – The number of obese dogs keeps rising and we see the same problem in humanity. I also believe it originates from the same cause and it’s our indulgence in sugar or high starch products which causes huge problems for humans and canine alike. Starch comes from carbohydrates and once broken down (digested) becomes sugar, with the huge amounts of carbohydrates we all eat and give our dogs no wonder we are all ending up with the same metabolic diseases brought on by the stresses and inflammation of eating such a diet. We like treats and I’m sure many of us are guilty of giving in to our dog’s adorable faces and offering a sugar filled treat. Those of you who are strong willed and don’t offer sugar filled treats hang on in there. We will all be following suit soon. Treats should be included in the daily allowance of the dog’s diet and for those of you who clicker train and go crazy treating every positive move simply feed your entire food allowance as meaty morsels throughout the day. Also keep the treats healthy and follow the same guide lines as in your dog’s diet, i.e. fresh, varied and non-processed. I hear too often, “but my dog likes a treat”. I apologise, but no. It is you that likes giving your dog a treat because he does that cute thing if you do. Humanity feels the need to always try to give more than is realistically needed.
Our canine also has the incredible ability to train us. “Fido barks until I give him a treat, he must be telling me he’s after a bed time snack so I give him a treat” Fido is actually training his human. If you would like to give him a snack before bed this needs to be included in his balanced, varied diet allowance. If these treats are not included in the daily allowance we will see dogs choosing what they eat and becoming very picky with their food. I personally would much rather have a chocolate bar than an orange but we all know what’s healthier. However, dogs will refuse to eat healthy food and fast themselves for days just to get that salt filled gravy poured over their food or a lovely sugar filled biscuit, which we all know is unhealthy.
I feel like I’m having ago at dog owners who only want the very best for their dogs. But I honestly worship those who try their hardest and feel we do our best with the knowledge we receive. Your canine will thank you later with their health and longevity.
There is such an easy answer to this question and I believe variation. However, I feel spending hours in the kitchen preparing meals to obtain the “complete and balanced” theory is unnecessary. Excuse me when I say this but I’ve never seen a fox in the wild kill its prey and then seek out some exotic vegetation to sprinkle over the top to make its kill “complete and balanced”. To this I will add, you do come across conditions a dog may suffer which mean they do need special food types that require preparation time. But on the whole a healthy animal thrives on varied raw meaty bones and organs alone.
I would imagine you are reading this thinking SO, WHAT IS VARIATION if not adding fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates and nuts in various shapes, sizes, colours and flavours? Perhaps its adding different meat sources such as Lamb, Beef, Chicken etc? While there is truth behind the last statement and yes you should feed various meat sources because each one holds various amino acids and trace elements. However, feeding a varied diet runs deeper than this and I mean that quite literally. When feeding muscle meat you are only feeding muscle. Now hold that thought. What else does an animal consist of? Well, there are organs, fur, fat, skin, cartilage, tendons and muscle. So, are we feeding all these vital ingredients?
Next, I’ll explain why these parts are so valuable to our working animals as revolting as they sound. Wild dogs eat their prey as a whole including organs, and in many cases the organs are the first thing they aim for. There is good reason for this considering how rich they are in nutrients. A dog who eats organs is a much healthier dog than one that does not. So why not feed our dogs more organ meat than is stated at 10% offal? If you overfeed offal, the effect can be as dangerous as feeding none at all. I would recommend keeping the balance at 10% offal throughout their life.
Liver is very important and a dog’s diet should always contain 5% of the offal content as liver. Liver contains high levels of vitamin A and also has great quantities of vitamins E, D and K. Liver also contains excellent sources of the minerals zinc, manganese, selenium and iron. Liver has an abundance of B vitamins including, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, biotin, folacin, B12 and choline. It is also a source of Vitamin C. Feeding liver also helps detoxify the dogs liver and keep it healthy.
Another fantastic organ for your dog to have. They supply good quality protein, essential fatty acids and many fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Kidneys are rich in iron and all the B vitamins and also are a source of zinc.
Pancreas is another great organ to include and contains many helpful enzymes to help dogs with digestive problems. Pancreas works wonders for dogs with pancreatic deficiencies and helps aid digestion.
Brains are great for supplying protein, fat and water. Brains also contain good levels of vitamin C.
For added punch include these organ meats at an additional 10% of your dog’s diet, making the total offal content 20%. Be cautious, as these can be bowel movers. However, they have great nutritional value and will help your pet thriving even more.
Heart is another great source of B vitamin, iron and protein. Heart contains taurine and this is amazing for muscle repair including rebuilding cells to keep them functioning at optimal health.
Tripe is a source of B vitamins, fatty acids and helps keep the micro-organisms healthy in the gut.
That’s organ meat out the way and now let’s talk a little about natural fibre.
Fur is a great source of natural fibre and although it holds basically no nutritional value it does enable the bowels to cleanse themselves. This is possible because the fur acts to clean the bowels as it passes though. It has been known that animals use this as a natural way to prevent parasites and disarming any sharp objects passing through the bowel by cocooning them in a future mass making them easier to pass.
Fats, are they important? Fats are necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, provide protection from the cold, protect the nerve fibres in the whole body. Fats provide more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein. They improve the palatability of a dog’s food and are an excellent source of essential fatty acids. With all this in mind. your dog needs fats and lots of them. This will come from the meats you feed. The two most important fats are omega-6 and omega-3. However, you won’t need to worry about omega-6 because these are of abundance in meats like chicken, pork and beef. As I’ve pushed so far, variation is key and I’m sure you will be feeding these meats whenever possible. Omega-3 is a fatty acid you will need to add to your dog’s diet and I can’t think of any better form than wild salmon oil or whole oily fish.
Skin, Tendons and Cartilage
I’m not going to expand on this one because these will be in abundance when feeding a wide range of food types for example wings, necks, thigh, carcasses and feet. One point I will add; If you have a dog suffering from joint, skin or ligament damage, then adding these types of foods will be of huge benefit.
Muscle meat is the main ingredient in your dog’s diet and will make up most of what you offer your canine on a daily basis. Since dogs are carnivores, it only makes sense they thrive on a diet nature intended. After all, they have digestive systems designed to deal with lots of raw meat and fats. High protein diets in recent studies have proven protein is essential for canine health throughout all stages of life. Protein is essential for good tissue health, a strong immune system and healthy skin and coat.
Q My dog has gone off raw. It’s only a puppy and I can’t do tough love, should I go back to kibble?
Fussy dogs are something I see often. It doesn’t seem to matter if the dog eats raw, cooked, dry or canned food the fight seems endless to make them eat the food offered. The food we pay for, the food we work so hard to jazz up and offer our pooches is looked at, sniffed at, and then they simply walk away. As someone who has experienced this I know the heart ache, but believe me, the answer is so simple. Yet it’s made difficult by behaviours that we sometimes set in motion. There are also problems when dogs go through dramatic experiences while eating, (stung by a wasp while eating chicken and now we have a dog who won’t eat chicken). These experiences create stimulated behavious. So now the dog will relate the smell, texture, taste and sight of chicken to the sting he received while these stimuli were present. Have you ever experienced burning your hand on an oven tray? We will wear gloves next time. On the other hand, I see dogs that are overweight and are not losing weight meaning more than likely they are not hungry and will quite happily choose their food. Our children can’t eat their mains but always fit in the dessert.
Q Is your puppy hungry?
Getting your puppy the nutrition they need is vital. Their nutritional needs can be fulfilled without offering constant food and making them eat more than they want or need. Feeding between 2-3% of their adult body weight is a guide line and starting at this is fine. You will hear vast opinions on feeding amounts and I guess they have truth in circumstances of their own but these circumstances might not be yours. My opinion will always be start at the guide lines but don’t get bogged down by these numbers. Know your dog and research how a healthy puppy looks. Keep them sleek and the less physical impact you have on their body at a young age will keep their joints healthy throughout life. With a puppy who looks at their food for the first time and turns away, I would advise you pop them on a short 12 hour fast. Once this fast has past offer their food back to them, offering small amounts. More often if you are feeding your puppy 3 times a day, you could now split this into 4-5 smaller meals.
Q They’ve been fussy for a few weeks now…
If you find your puppy getting more and more fussy as the weeks go by and you find yourself having to feed more treats just to get them chomping on their food. Here lies the problem many of us don’t predict and this problem is our puppies know how to manipulate our “kind” feeding behaviour. We humans are feeders and we believe that if we are not fed we will become ill and in fact quite the opposite is true however, that is a subject far beyond this article. An answer to this problem is time and really knowing what your puppy is eating, treats need to stop and the cocktail sausage fed under the chair by children must also stop. We all feel treating our dogs is wonderful and to do so is giving our dogs the happy life they deserve but I believe quite the opposite because treats are usually unhealthy although they might be tasty. A puppy will soon learn if they don’t eat their main dinner a dessert will soon follow because we feel bad for not offering something good enough. Remind you of some children you know?? I will reveal ways to coax your puppy into eating later. However, first in this paragraph I’ve been miserable and been defensive when it comes to treats. Treats are absolutely fine to give our dogs as long as we bear in mind their daily intake and include treats in this amount. We can all get carried away.
Q My puppy was eating his raw with gusto when we first transferred to raw, but now he won’t eat his meals?
This can be horrible and stressful. We spend time preparing our puppies food and they simply walk away. The answer is usually very simple. For most, it means for the first time in their lives they are satisfied. Your puppy’s hunger, which has more than likely been consistent since being weened onto biscuits, has now been irradiated because they are no longer eating food which is addictive and didn’t satisfy their needs.
Q Is your puppy unwell?
In some circumstances your dog could be unwell and if any of these symptoms are present (vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, dehydration, sinking eyes, pale gums and tongue, rapid loss of weight, or foaming at the mouth) your dog should be seen to by a vet you trust. I’ve always felt ruling out any serious problems is a good place to start.
Environmental and physical stresses
Stress is something that affect us all from time to time and when such factors are involved it can affect our feeding behaviour. Stress effects all our dogs differently and what effects one will not necessarily affect another. However, the impact these different stresses have on the body are similar and can bring on a suppressed appetite. Some examples of these stresses can be moving house, going on holiday, a new member entering the household, change in owner’s mood, even weather patterns. Although stress can be brought on by 101 different things, all you need to do is support your dog by creating a happy atmosphere and caring on with day to day life. Your dog will adapt in no time and start eating again soon. Another highly stressful situation for our male dogs to deal with is a female dog in heat. For a whole male this is a highly stressful time and most whole males will have other things on their mind rather than eating. Not to panic, you can either remove him from the situation and if you have a kind friend your dog is comfortable with I’m sure they won’t mind having your fury friend for a few days. Or, offer small amounts of food often and at times he seems less troubled or distracted.
Many people simply leave biscuits laying around the house for their dogs to graze on. I don’t mean to be rude but our dogs are NOT ruminates. They do not need food constantly. Once you fulfil a routine of feeding your dog at set times, your dog will start to know when food is coming and their body will prepare normally bringing on an appetite. Don’t go back to biscuits as these are addictive and just because your dog graves them, doesn’t mean they are good for them.
Stressing the importance of variation is critical. I’ve already written an article on this and it would be worth checking it out. Variety is the leading factor when succeeding at raw feeding and helping your puppy enjoy their meals.
Top tips to encourage appetite
– Warming the food to body temperature (don’t cook it). Put the food in a plastic bag and submerge in hot water. This way you can mimic the warmth of a prey animal and this can bring on feeding.
–Browning the meat (don’t cook it). This works well if feeding chicken wings or meaty bones. Put under the grill for 15-30 seconds to brown the flesh. For both the above you can decrease the warming slowly until your puppy eats what you offer.
-Coat the raw food in “naughty” food. If there’s any particular human food your dog likes no matter how naughty it is, rub this over the food and mix it in with the raw. Decrease the amount of naughty food mixed in as soon as possible. Be creative and win.
–Act happy. Act happy at feeding time. Feeding time is very exciting and all food offered should be amazing and mouth-watering. Even if your dog doesn’t eat their food don’t make a song and dance about it. Any stress involved at eating can affect the dog’s relationship with the food later. Be calm and positive.
–Don’t hover. Don’t hover over the dog anxiously, waiting to see if your dog eats. Seeing how wound up meal times makes you can lead to refusal to eat on your puppy’s behalf. Try to act COOL, put the bowl down, walk away or into another room and if your pup doesn’t eat put the food away. Sometimes we unwillingly teach our dog behaviour.
–Exercise. Giving your dog regular exercise can bring on a healthy appetite. This could be a regular walk once or twice a day to stimulate your dog, or activities like flyball, swimming, agility and obedience training. These will give your dog physical and mental exercise, building up an appetite.
Don’t be worried it could be natural.
There are many natural reasons to why a dog could lose its appetite or bring changes to the way they eat. Puppies go through stages of fast growth before slowing down, so it’s perfectly natural that sometimes they will consume less. The sore gums puppies can get when teething also lead to a suppressed appetite for a short period. Hormonal changes in females can also lead to short periods of eating less or a lack of appetite.