blackntanclan

Celebrating All Things Black & Tan & 4-Legged

The Unpopular Truth October 16, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — blackntanclan @ 9:16 am

I’m sitting here listening to the 2nd Presidential Debate, and the 1st question out of the gate already has my blood pumping. A young man, 20 years old, preparing to graduate in 2014, asked the candidates how they will assure him that he will have a job following graduation from college.

 

Both candidates pontificated on the importance of good, well-paying jobs for individuals with higher education. Both candidates indicated or implied that more people should be getting a higher education, at more affordable rates, with a more profitable career as a result.

 

To borrow a line from my least favorite politician, “That’s a bunch of stuff.” Yeah, “malarkey” even…

 

Here’s the unpopular truth, folks. Not everyone should get a college-level education.

 

Remember back in the day, when part of most high school curriculums included vocational programs? When you could learn to be a skilled laborer? What happened to that?

 

If nearly every youth gets a college degree, that doesn’t increase the value of the education obtained by the recipients of those degrees. Rather, it decreases the value of the degrees themselves. We’ve gotten to a point where a college degree is the equivalent of a high school diploma, and in order to obtain the “higher level” jobs that a college degree once afforded you, you must get a post-graduate degree… and burden yourself with additional debt, accordingly.

 

And in the meantime, factories in this country can’t hire workers. Not because they don’t have the budget. Not because they don’t have the orders. But because they cannot find skilled labor competent enough to do the work necessary to get the job done.

 

I know it’s an unpopular thing to say, but here I am, saying it: not everyone belongs in college, and we need to focus on educational alternatives for those who don’t belong in college, if we’re going to rebuild our middle class and create a strong work force in this country.

 

So come on, candidates.  Stop saying what people think you should be saying, and start talking truth.  Because professional political pandering isn’t what’s going to fix this country.  You’d think we would have figured that much out by now, what with all those college degrees and all…

 

A Raw Feeding Primer – Part III: Starting a Whole Prey Model Diet August 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — blackntanclan @ 6:20 pm

In Part I of this series, we examined the history of kibble and its rise in popularity following the Second World War when carbohydrates and manufacturing became less expensive and marketing more pervasive.

In Part II, we looked at the anatomy of the canine di­gestive system, which is identical to that of the gray wolf. We discussed the two major schools of thought regarding raw feeding: BARF (biologically appropriate raw food) and WPM (whole prey model). And we concluded that, while a BARF diet is preferable to kibble, WPM is most closely modeled after the natural composition of a wolf’s natural prey, when the whole composition of the prey is taken into account.

In this issue, we’ll explore the Whole Prey Model and approaches to starting and maintaining a raw diet for the life of your pets.

Note: the information in this article is meant for owners of healthy dogs; if your dog has special dietary needs or a health condition, including a suppressed immune system, talk with your veterinarian before embarking on any new health or dietary regimen.

The Fundamentals

The good news is that feeding raw is actually a lot simpler than it may first seem!

As discussed last issue, the goal of the Whole Prey Model is to feed dogs in the same ratio that wolves eat: 10% edible bone, 10% organ (about half of which should ideally be liver), and 80% everything else (meat, skin, fat, connective tissue, etc.); for ease of reference, WPM feeders refer to this 80% as simply “meat,” though it is comprised of much more than that. Here is a quick primer on what food items each category encompasses:

Bones

The most important thing to remember when feeding WPM raw is to avoid cooked bones and the weight-bearing bones of large animals (like cows). Aside from that, raw bones are no less safe for a healthy dog to consume than kibble.

Cooked bones are particularly dangerous because they have had all the moisture seeped out of them. They’re rough and brittle, and they can splinter in a way that raw bones generally can’t/won’t. They are to be avoided at all costs, whether from a chicken or a cow. Weight-bearing bones of large ungulates (cows, deer, etc.) are too dense to be safely consumed by most dogs. Even wolves will generally leave these leg bones behind when consuming a kill. Some dogs love to snack on these leg/knee bones, and you can buy them as “recreational” bones in pet stores. But we raw feeders often refer to them as “wreck-reational” bones, because of the high likelihood that a dog will chip its teeth on these dense bones. Of course, a chipped tooth here and there won’t endanger the dog, but it can get expensive and painful over time.

All other raw bones, be they chicken/turkey bones, fish bones, pork bones, or even lamb ribs/skulls/etc., are generally safe. Even some leg bones can be safe, depending on the size of the animal they came from, and depending on the dog. For example, a Doberman can generally crush through a lamb leg bone without a problem – it has a stronger PPI (pounds of pressure per inch) in its bite than a small- to medium-sized terrier.

Additionally, WPM feeders generally feed meaty bones (raw bones that are covered in meat and fat), rather than bare bones.

Organs

Organs should account for about 10% of a dog’s diet, with half of that being liver, and the rest being whatever else you can get your hands on: kidney, spleen, brain, eyes, reproductive organs, green tripe, etc. Think of liver as “nature’s multivitamin.” It’s the most nutrient-rich part of any animal, and is therefore a vital part of your dog’s diet. If that’s the only organ you can find, you’re still doing okay. Calf liver and chicken liver can be found in nearly every grocery store; kidney, spleen, and other “oddities” can often be found at “big box” super-stores, ethnic markets, or farmers’ markets.

Meat

Though a diet including 80% meat may seem unbalanced at first, feeders must remember that (i) it’s not just meat, but really meat, skin, fat, and all other parts of the animal excluding bones and organs; (ii) it’s extremely “bio-available,” in other words, because it’s a good quality raw protein, it’s much less taxing on the dog’s digestive system than processed kibble or cooked proteins; and (iii) it’s mostly water! Realistically, a boneless steak is actually over 70% water, with the rest being meat and fat. The “80% meat” category also includes certain organs that function as muscle, such as hearts and gizzards.

Sourcing Materials

Locating a source of bones, organs and meat can be a challenge. The ideal source of meat is hunted wild prey: it is not injected with hormones or antibiotics, and it is not grain-fed, so the meat has significantly higher levels of natural Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

Some WPM feeders have unusual resources that can supply them directly, like hunters willing to bag a deer during deer season. Alternatively, for the price of a hunting permit, a dog owner could acquire hundreds of pounds of meat, organs, and edible bones themselves. Other raw feeders have built relationships with meat processors and even taxidermists, both of whom will sometimes let them poke through scrap barrels and retrieve trimmings. Not only is this a good source of naturally reared meat, it’s also often free.

These lucky few feed the nearest thing to real whole prey that you’re going to get. But most of us don’t have those kinds of connections. And even if we did, processing and storage are a challenge often too large to overcome, especially since commercial processors will generally throw away those parts of the deer WPM feeders find most valuable: the offal (i.e., the tripe, lungs, spleen, kidney, and other items not generally consumed in western culture). The majority of WPM feeders have therefore chosen to feed “FrankinPrey”: a term used to describe the concept of feeding bits and pieces of whatever animals you can get your hands on — with as much variety as possible — while still achiev­ing the 10/10/80 ratio of bones/organs/meat over time.

Where do they find it? Most WPM raw feeders get all or most of their dogs’ food at grocery stores. It’s meat that’s packaged and sold for human consumption. It may not be organic, grass-fed, or hormone-free, but neither is the meat most people are eating. And despite being a few steps below wild natural prey, it’s still worlds better than kibble.

Be aware, however, that a lot of meat packaged for human consumption is marinated or injected with solu­tions to tenderize the meat and enhance its fla­vor. Those solutions are generally very high in so­dium. While sodium is not particularly dangerous for dogs, high-sodium meat products are not as healthy as their unenhanced counterparts. In attempting to model our dogs’ diets after natural whole prey, we strive to keep the addition of salt to a minimum.

The solution to avoiding solutions is simple: read the labels. Most meat labels will either say, “contains up to _% of a [natural] solution,” or alternatively, “contains up to _% retained water”. The meat with the solution will generally be high in sodium. The meat without the solution, and/or the meat with retained water, gener­ally will not be. If the packaging has a nutrition label, check the sodium content: anything under approxi­mately 75mg per serving is generally not enhanced; anything over 75mg per serving generally is.

If you can afford to feed your dogs organic, grass-fed meats, then feel free to do so; it can only benefit them. But feeding standard human fare will still improve their health and their lives.

Common food items for WPM-fed dogs include, with­out limitation, raw: chicken leg quarters, lamb steaks and lamb medallions, beef steaks, ox tails, pork feet, pork shoulders, beef and chicken liver, beef and pig kidney and spleen, goat meat, and fish such as tilapia and wild-caught salmon (which is especially good for infusing the diet with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty ac­ids). Many raw feeders will also give their dogs canned sardines in water as treats (or part of a meal) to in­crease the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in the diet.

From Theory To Practice

Now that you know what is meant by bones, organs, and meat, and you have identified some possible sources, the next challenge is to figure out how much your dog needs to eat and how often you should feed your dog to ensure a balanced diet:

Proportions

The first thing to keep in mind is that each individual meal doesn’t have to be comprised of 10% bone, 10% organ, and 80% meat. It’s really about achieving die­tary balance over time. Many WPM-fed dogs, for ex­ample, will eat a bony meal one night, and a meaty (boneless) meal the next.

There are caveats to every rule, however. As a new raw feeder, think of bone as “fiber for dogs.” (It’s not really fiber, but it keeps the stools firm like fiber would in humans.) When starting a dog on raw, it’s important to make sure your dog gets 10-20% bone every day, to ensure that its stools stay firm while its stomach and digestive tract become accustomed to the new diet. If you notice the stools getting hard and chalky in ap­pearance, that means you have fed too much bone and the dog needs more meat/organ.

Every dog is different, so you might find that one dog needs more bone regularly to regulate its bowel move­ments, while another acclimates to meaty meals with­out issue. By no means does a diet need to be perfectly balanced, nor do animals in the same house need to always eat the same things: just as a wolf pack doesn’t portion out its kill evenly to all members, a dog’s diet needn’t be exactly 10/10/80.

Quantity

The “rule of thumb” for WPM raw is to feed a dog 2-4% of its healthy adult body weight daily. If you have a puppy, estimate its adult weight based on its parentage and/or its growth pattern to determine what its healthy adult body weight is for calculating food quantities.

By way of example: if your dog weighs 100 pounds, feed 2-4 pounds per day; if your dog weighs 20 pounds, feed 6.5 ounces (4/10 of a pound) to 13 ounces (4/5 of a pound) of food per day; and if your dog weighs 10 pounds, feed 3.25 ounces (1/5 of a pound) to 6.5 ounces (4/10 of a pound) per day (there are 16 oz in a pound).

It’s recommended to start feeding a dog at 2% of the dog’s healthy adult weight. If the dog starts gaining weight, cut that down. If the dog starts losing weight, add more to each meal. Each dog’s metabolism is dif­ferent, just as with humans. Metabolism is affected not only by basic genetic traits, but also, without limita­tion, by hormones (intact animals have higher metabo­lisms than altered animals), lifestyle (active dogs have higher metabolisms than inactive dogs), age (younger dogs have higher metabolisms than older dogs), and medical conditions (disorders, diseases, and medica­tions).

As a matter of fact, my intact, 2 year old, Toy Man­chester Terrier eats more food each day than my neu­tered, 8 year old, Standard Manchester Terrier (over 4% to under 2%, respectively).

Timing

Frequency of feeding varies greatly with WPM feeders. Some people split the food up into 2 meals each day. Others feed once per day. And still others follow a “BFFLO” (pronounced “buffalo”) model: big food fed less often. BFFLO feedings mimic a wolf s natural pro­pensity to gorge and rest. In other words, a wolf pack will take down a large ungulate and eat until their stomachs are stretched to many times their normal size. Then they’ll fast for upward of 3-4 days before hunting again. BFFLO feeders will feed a dog 3 days’ worth of food (6-12% of the dog’s healthy adult body weight) in one sitting, and then will fast the dog the following 2 days.

This is a matter of personal preference, based on each raw feeder’s experiences, information, and personal concerns. Some owners of large, deep-chested breeds (like Dobermans and Great Danes) refrain from BFFLO feeding, because they fear that the consump­tion of large quantities of food may encourage bloat. Other owners of the same breeds feed BFFLO confi­dently and have never had a problem. They believe that a long-term raw diet strengthens the stomach muscles, thereby decreasing the likelihood of bloat overall. There is no evidence proving or disproving either school of thought. As with any other aspect of pet ownership, including raw feeding in general, each individual must do what he or she believes is in the best interest of the animal. It’s no different for our four­legged fur-kids than it is for our bipedal children.

The First Is the Worst

Starting any new diet (raw or kibble!) can be fraught with questions, concerns, and mistakes. The first month in particular can be intimidating, but encourage yourself to keep going by looking at your dog and its improved condition.

Undoubtedly, before you get the hang of things, you will have fallen into at least one of the following three traps: too much, too rich, and too new. The conse­quences for each are generally the same: loose stools and an upset stomach.

To avoid the three traps, remember the following:

  • Too much of anything — even a good thing — can be bad. Control your dog’s diet by starting off feeding only 2% to insure its transition is smooth. Increase its food quantity if it is losing weight, but do so slowly over time.
  • Red meats are richer and fattier than poultry, and the bones of mammals are denser than the bones of fowl. Start your dog on bland chicken leg quarters or drumsticks (depending on how big or small, re­spectively, your dog is) for at least the first few weeks. They have a high bone percentage, which helps prevent loose stool, and they’re easy to digest. You may have to remove the skin at first, because it is fatty, and fat contributes to loose stool. Eventually, you should be able to leave the skin on without any negative consequence. Again, it’s a matter of incorporating the skin slowly over time.
  • Avoid organs entirely for at least the first 2-3 months. Your dog will not suffer from any sort of nutri­tional deficiency in that short a period — remember, it’s about balance over time. Organs are even richer than red meat, and if not introduced slowly, can definitely cause digestive upset. Slowly, over time, you can add larger and larger portions of organs to your dog’s meals without the dog experiencing digestive upset.

Finally, remember that even a long-term raw-fed dog can experience digestive upset if fed too much of some­thing too new. So take it slow: move at a pace that’s comfortable for you and your dog. After all, you have a lifetime to share with your dog — a lifetime you may very well extend through your choice to feed raw.

 **A Word About Carbohydrates** 

Where are the fruits and vegetables, you ask? In WPM, they are not considered a primary food source and are given as treats only.

You’ll remember that, as a result of their short intestines, dogs are physically incapable of deriv­ing nutrition from fruits and vegetables regard­less of how they are prepared. That means that vegetables and fruit are monetary expenditures that are, ultimately, wasted on the dog. Beyond that, the dog’s pancreas, kidneys, and the rest of its digestive tract, may actually be taxed.

Now, that certainly doesn’t mean dogs don’t enjoy, and won’t seek out, fruits and vegeta­bles. Dogs are opportunistic carnivores – scavengers – and they will eat whatever they can get their mouths on. Just because it’s not optimal doesn’t mean it’s deadly (except, perhaps, in the case of grapes). After all, many people eat ice cream and marshmallows. It may not be the best choice for them, but they’ll survive.

In the same vein, wild wolves will sometimes scavenge fresh berries on a bush or eat an apple that’s fallen from a tree. They do this because carbohydrates are sweet — and so is fat. When dogs are hungry, their bodies crave fat. If fat cannot be readily found, they will eat anything else that is sweet, and therefore biologically reminiscent of fat, carbohydrates included. This is the same reason dogs will drink antifreeze if given the chance: it may be poison, but it’s sweet to taste and therefore appeals to them.

 

A Raw Feeding Primer – Part II: Understanding Our Domesticated Wolves May 14, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — blackntanclan @ 2:22 pm

Little Westley chowing down on a chicken drumstick.

Ask most people, including some veterinarians, whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores, and you’ll be told dogs are omnivores, designed to survive on a combination of plant and animal matter. Yet scientific discoveries in the past twenty (20) years prove those people wrong. Particularly, the genetic research of Dr. Robert K. Wayne and the observational research of Dr. L. David Mech indicate that dogs are carnivores, still nearly genetically identical to the gray wolf, and like the gray wolf, they thrive on a diet of meat, bones, and organs.

In the early 1990s, Dr. Robert K. Wayne and fellow geneticists studied the DNA of wolves, dogs, coyotes, foxes, and other members of the genetic “dog family,” called Canidae. At the time, the dog’s origins were not definitively known. Were they their own species? Dogs themselves show significant physical diversity – was it possible they came from more than one source? Wayne’s research definitively proved otherwise: ”Dogs are gray wolves, despite their diversity in size and proportion; the wide variation in their adult morphology probably results from simple changes in developmental rate and timing.” (Wayne, Molecular Evolution of the Dog Family, 1993)

That’s right: dogs didn’t just evolve from gray wolves; dogs are gray wolves, “differing from [them] by at most 0.2% of mtDNA sequence.” (Wayne, 1993) Their genetic similarities are what enable dogs and wolves to interbreed even to this day. After all, no more than 15,000 years have passed since dogs were domesticated. (Wayne, 1993) In the evolutionary scheme of things, that’s barely the blink of an eye.

Since dogs are nearly genetically identical to gray wolves, can interbreed with wolves, and in fact really are still wolves, it should be no surprise that their digestive systems are identical. From the smallest Chihuahua to the largest Irish Wolfhound, to the wild gray wolf, some things never change: things like teeth, jaws, and intestines, to name a few.

So let’s travel down the dog’s digestive system, explore their basic anatomy, and discover what exactly makes them carnivores.

The Teeth. The first tool a dog uses in digestion is its teeth. If you open your dog’s mouth, you’ll see sharp little teeth from front to back. These teeth are known as incisors (in the front), canines (the longest of the teeth), and premolars (in the rear). Dogs’ teeth are designed to kill prey (with the canines), shred meat (with the incisors), and crush bones (with the premolars). Notably missing from a dog’s mouth are flat molars in the rear. Herbivores (like cows) and omnivores (like humans) have molars because they are needed to grind fruits, vegetables, and grains to begin the process of breaking down the cellulose in the carbohydrates – a necessary step in carbohydrate digestion.

But here’s what you can’t see just by opening your dog’s mouth:

The Saliva. Herbivore/omnivore saliva contains enzymes that, in conjunction with those grinding molars, break down the cellulose, making the carbohydrates we eat digestible. Carnivore saliva acts as nothing more than a lubricant, enabling a carnivore to swallow prey as quickly as possible. Dogs have lubricating saliva, lacking any enzymes for cellulose digestion.

The Jaw. Herbivore/omnivore jaws move up-and-down, and also side-to-side, allowing for food to be well chewed and ground with the molars, again assisting in breaking down cellulose. Carnivore jaws cannot move side-to-side. They can only move up-and-down, like scissors, which does not permit “chewing,” as you might conceive of it. As with the saliva, the carnivore is simply not designed to slowly eat its food, chewing diligently like a herbivorous cow. It’s expected to use its scissor-like jaws, in conjunction with its deadly canines, to take down a prey animal. Then, it uses its incisors and canines to shred the meat from that animal and consume as much as possible as quickly as possible. The scissor-like motion of a dog’s jaw does not enable grinding, as would be necessary to digest plant matter.

The Stomach Walls. Herbivores/omnivores generally eat many small meals each day. They graze and, accordingly, their stomachs can only healthfully fluctuate so much in size. Carnivore stomachs, including dogs’ stomachs, stretch to many times their normal size, enabling carnivores to gorge (eat as much of their prey as possible immediately following the kill), and then rest.

The Stomach Acid. Herbivore/omnivore stomach acid is designed to digest plant matter and well chewed food. Compared to carnivorous stomach acid, it’s downright weak. A dog’s stomach fluid is significantly more acidic, which enables dogs, as carnivores, to break down bones and other food that’s been crushed and swallowed (but not chewed).

The Intestines. Herbivore/omnivore intestines are rather proportionately long, affording the ground and semi-digested carbohydrates time to ferment in the gut, making the nutrients therein available to the eater. Carnivore intestines are short, so that the bacteria naturally occurring in meat pass through the carnivore quickly, leaving them no time to “set up shop” in the intestine and cause digestive upset (like they would in a human). Because dogs’ (and other carnivores’) intestines are short, even partially ground, pureed, and/or steamed vegetables do not have sufficient time to ferment in the gut. Full digestion is impossible.

But carbohydrates are cheap. And carbohydrates are a natural part of human garbage. We eat them, so we throw them away. Dogs, being opportunistic, will eat whatever they can (including socks, goose and cat poop, and the occasional remote control – a sharp reminder that just because a dog can eat something, and wants to eat something, doesn’t necessarily mean the dog should eat that thing).

When dogs were eating our table scraps, as a byproduct of domestication, their diets changed to include whatever fruits, vegetables, or grains would have otherwise gone to waste. However, since dogs have only been domesticated for about 15,000 years, they haven’t actually evolved to a point where those items are actually beneficial for the dog. Still, it understandably became generally accepted that dogs could and would eat these items. Additionally, carbohydrates are a necessary ingredient in any kibble. They are the binding agents that hold the little clumps together. Be they rice or potatoes, there will be some kind of starch in kibble.

But, as with socks, remote controls, and even antifreeze, just because dogs can and will eat carbohydrates doesn’t mean they should. As we’ve discussed, “[d]ogs do not normally produce the necessary enzymes in their saliva (amylase, for example) to start the break-down process of carbohydrates and starches; amylase in saliva is something omnivorous and herbivorous animals possess, but not carnivorous animals [including dogs]. This places the burden entirely on the pancreas, forcing it to produce large amounts of amylase to deal with the starch, cellulose, and carbohydrates in plant matter. The carnivore’s pancreas does not secrete cellulase to split the cellulose into glucose molecules, nor have dogs become efficient at digesting and assimilating and utilizing plant material as a source of high quality protein. Herbivores do those sorts of things.” (Case, Carey and Hirakawa, Canine and Feline Nutrition, 1995)

For many years, it was believed that wolves ate partially digested plant matter regularly, by digesting the stomach contents of their prey. So, even raw feeders believed it was best to feed carbohydrates to their dogs, because they believed it was natural and necessary for dogs (like wolves) to consume such matter. Knowing a dog’s mouth and stomach acid were incapable of adequately digesting plant matter, BARF feeders would steam and/or puree this plant matter, hoping that doing so would mimic partial digestion and enable their dogs to derive nutrition from the plant matter.

As discussed above, the canine anatomy is not capable of efficiently deriving nutrition from even partially digested plant matter, due to their short, small intestines.

More significantly, the research of Dr. L. David Mech, Senior Scientist with the Biological Resources Division, U.S. Geological Survey, and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, and Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota, has dispelled the popular myth that wolves eat the stomach contents of their prey. In over fifty (50) years of observing and researching wolves, Mech determined that “[w]olves usually tear into the body cavity of large prey and consume the larger internal organs, such as lungs, heart, and liver. The large rumen…is usually punctured during removal and its contents spilled. The vegetation in the intestinal tract is of no interest to the wolves, but the stomach lining and intestinal wall are consumed, and their contents further strewn about the kill site.” (Mech, et al., Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation, 2003) The stomach lining and intestinal walls are muscle matter, not plant matter, and are therefore a desired food for the wolves. Their contents are left behind, uneaten.

Dogs and wolves are not designed to eat carbohydrates. Every part of their digestive tract dictates that they are carnivores, designed to safely digest prey animals. Knowing they’re not designed to eat plant matter, why feed it?

Would you ride a mountain bike in the Tour de France?

Would you use a samurai sword to whittle a delicate statuette?

Would you take a Lamborghini off-roading?

Perhaps, in each of the above examples, you could. But knowing that these tools were designed for a different purpose, knowing there were other tools better suited to your uses, why would you? Just as you could feed your dog carbohydrates… but why would you, knowing that ‘s not what they were designed to eat?

The dog’s teeth, jaws, saliva, stomach, digestive juices, and intestines all dictate that the dog is a carnivore designed to eat the bones, the organs, the meat, the fat, the connective tissues, and all the other parts of prey animals. This is why the Whole Prey Model raw diet – in which the dog eats as many diverse parts of prey animals but no fruits, vegetables, starches, etc. – is often referred to as a “biologically and anatomically appropriate diet.”

By eating foods that its body is designed to digest, the dog can obtain the most nutritional benefit with the least amount of taxation. The food is highly “bio-available” to the dog. Less stress on the digestive system, particularly the pancreas and kidneys, and more bio-available nutrition, leads to better immune system functionality and overall health.

A longer, happier, and healthier life for your pet – what more could any “paw”rent ask for?

 

A Raw Feeding Primer – Part I April 24, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — blackntanclan @ 8:33 pm

Since the 1980s, there has been an extraordinary movement in the companion animal community. Slowly, many of us have progressed from feeding kibble towards feeding whole, unprocessed foods to our pets. The events of the past five years have greatly precipitated this movement, as countless pet foods – even those considered “high quality” – have been recalled due to unsafe ingredients and storage conditions that ultimately led to a number of animals getting sick and even dying.

Personally, feeding a home-prepared diet to my dogs always seemed like the right thing to do. Having been raised by a stay-at-home mother from an immigrant family, I never ate a microwave meal until I was in my teens, and fast food restaurants were out of the question. I simply wanted to feed my dogs (my “children in fur coats”) the same way my mother fed me. So, when I acquired my first Manchester Terrier in 2003, it only made sense to wean him off the kibble with which his breeder generously supplied me and onto a raw diet.

As with everything else in my life, including my choice of breed, I researched canine anatomy and genetics ad nauseam prior to bringing my little Monster Terrorist – I mean, Manchester Terrier – home, and it was this research that led me to feed raw with confidence. In the years since, as my confidence and knowledge have grown, I’ve shifted from pre-made raw (such as Nature’s Variety® or Blue Buffalo®) to whole prey model (“WPM”) raw. Through this series of articles, I will arm you with the same knowledge regarding canine anatomy, which will hopefully increase your confidence and enable you to feed a raw diet.

This article is the first in a series of three that, together, will (1) provide you with a strong foundation for raw feeding, and (2) more importantly, spur you to continue educating yourself (and others!) about WPM raw. In this issue, we will explore the beginnings and history of feeding our dogs – raw or otherwise. Next time, we will delve a bit deeper into canine genetics and anatomy, hopefully setting your mind at ease about the safety of a raw diet for your fur-kids. And finally, in part three, we’ll look at a simple guide to starting and maintaining a raw diet for the life of your pets. I realize I’m being optimistic in splitting this topic over three separate articles, but I believe that Black & Tan Magazine will be a raging success, and we’ll all be drooling in anticipation for the next issue. I hope I’m right! So, hold onto your hats, because here we go!

A lot of people view raw feeding with skepticism. To them, it’s like some newfangled “cult” that just sprouted up about 25 years ago. Why should they trust the health and wellbeing of their precious pets to such a new idea? Kibble is a “safe” and “known” product, and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) says it contains the balanced nutrition our pets need. So why argue with that? After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right?

Not really.

Kibble manufacturers played on pet owners' fears to convince them that any other diet was dangerously lacking, when the truth is quite the opposite.

The truth is, the very first kibble-like product ever fed to dogs was a stale biscuit from a sea ship in the mid- to late-1800s. An electrician and salesman named James Spratt ran with the idea and mass-produced similar biscuits as cheap and easy dog food for the growing population of urban-dwelling pet owners. Kibble as we know it today was formulated after the First World War and didn’t become widely popular until after the Second World War, when the United States experienced an economic boom that enabled more families to keep companion animals. At the same time, comfort and convenience were being touted as the wave of the future. And kibble is certainly convenient…

The kibble industry continued to grow through the 1960s and 1970s, and kibble manufacturers worked very hard to convince consumers that table scraps were dangerous, unbalanced, unregulated sources of nutrition for pets. They had a product to sell, so they used a marketing technique known as “manufacturing doubt” to encourage people to buy what they were selling. If you tell people – often enough and loud enough – with bright shiny letters and big fancy billboards – that the alternatives are dangerous, they’ll be inclined to use the product you’ve convinced them is the only safe choice. Needless to say, it worked! Today, pet food is an $11 billion industry, and growing.

Given that dogs have been “man’s best friend” for at least 15,000 years (according to archaeological records), and kibble (in any form) has only been fed to dogs for about 150 years, it’s really the kibble that’s “newfangled.” Let me stress this, because it’s huge: dogs have eaten kibble for less than 1% of the time they’ve cohabitated with humans. Before the 1900s (i.e., for at least 99% of the time that dogs have cohabitated with humans), every dog ate whole unprocessed foods, be they raw or cooked. Obviously, it was safe enough to enable the species to exist, thrive, and reproduce – because they’re still with us today.

Now ask yourself this: would l feed my children Total® cereal three meals a day, every day of their lives? It’s got “total” nutrition… Would I feed my children Happy Meals® from McDonald’s® every day of their lives? It satisfies the food pyramid… If the answer is “no,” then we’re on the same page. Pre-packaged, nutrient-enriched dog foods are basically cereals for dogs: they may satisfy the nutritional requirements set forth by AAFCO, but so does a Happy Meal®. Like cereals, during the production process, kibble is cooked at such high temperatures that all the proteins, minerals, vitamins, etc., have been denatured, such that nutrients then have to be added back into the mix near the end of the production line. Those pretty pictures of whole meats, fruits, and grains that you see in the kibble commercials are a far cry from the product that reaches your dog’s food dish.

On the heels of the widespread pet food recalls that occurred in the last five years, there is a growing awareness that the advertisements we are bombarded with on television and in print media do not reflect reality. An increasing number of pet owners have begun questioning the “manufactured doubt” the kibble industry has worked so hard to instill as fact in our consciences. For many people, interest in raw feeding begins with one very simple question: How can dog food manufacturers call their product safe if dogs are dying from eating it?

While skepticism towards kibble has increased, raw feeding has gained credibility through a number of important developments in research around the genetic roots of our furry friends and the effects that complex carbohydrates can have on their bodies.

The raw feeding movement gained significant momentum through the work of Tom Lonsdale and Ian Billinghurst in the late-1980s and early-1990s. Lonsdale and Billinghurst popularized the “bones and raw food” or “biologically appropriate raw food” (BARF) diet, which encouraged dog owners to feed their animals raw, unprocessed foods. Though they are often considered the “godfathers of raw feeding,” they were simply two in a long chain of educators who endorsed a holistic lifestyle for pets. As early as the 1930s, when kibble was first gaining a stronghold in the market, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, an herbalist and the pioneer of holistic veterinary medicine, was educating the public about the benefits of a natural raw diet.

Lonsdale’s and Billinghurst’s BARF diet – which is still successfully fed by many, and is certainly better than kibble – has slowly evolved into the WPM diet we will explore in this series. As you’ll read in coming installments of A Raw Feeding Primer, the major difference between the two is the inclusion (or exclusion) of carbohydrates. While the BARF diet is reverse engineered from kibble, and therefore includes carbohydrates, the WPM diet is formulated based on the analysis of what our dogs’ wild counterparts eat in nature, and therefore does not.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I feed WPM raw to my dogs: it’s only natural! Mother Nature thought it up, and she generally has a good head on her shoulders.

 

Going Raw – Back to Basics

Filed under: Uncategorized — blackntanclan @ 8:22 pm

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: I take far better care of my dogs than I do myself (though admittedly, I also take far better care of myself when I’m caring for my dogs).  I think this is a problem many caretakers have, be they parents, pet owners, or nurses, just to name a few.

As those of you who know me are probably aware, for me, part of caring for my fur-kids means feeding a healthy, anatomically appropriate, diet.  In fact, I believe a healthy diet is at the heart of natural rearing, which I subscribe to as much as I reasonably can.

Over the past year, I have been lucky enough to write a series of articles about raw feeding and share them with the Manchester Terrier community through their international fancier publication, Black & Tan Magazine.  Ollie and Westley are very proud and absolutely take advantage of the bragging rights this affords them amongst the other Monster Terrorists they know, far and wide.

After submitting my third installment in the series last week, I thought I really ought to share the information I have about raw feeding on my blog as well.  So, over the next few days (or weeks – whatever works), I will be posting my articles on raw feeding here on my blog for all to enjoy.  If you have comments or questions, I encourage you to post them as replies to my blog – I will work to address them.

Hug your pets – and here’s wishing you sweet dreams from Prague.

…What?  I didn’t mention I’m in Prague on a vacation?  Yeah… probably because the guilt of leaving the dogs behind for almost 2 full weeks is practically killing me!!  But I know I’ll survive, and so will they.  Ollie and Angie are boarded at their most favorite facility, where they can run and play all day, before sleeping deeply each night in a “luxury sweet.”  Westley (who is intact and therefore cannot play with the other dogs at boarding) is in NJ with The Honey, who (because he’s the best boyfriend ever) is dog/house sitting for my parents while we traipse across Prague and Germany.

Did I mention he’s the best boyfriend ever?

As in, e-v-e-r.

EVER.

It must be love – I miss him as much as I miss my dogs!!

 

Sex Patrol March 30, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — blackntanclan @ 11:56 am

It’s inevitable.  They could be outside chasing squirrels.  They could be in the living room eating prized treats.  They could be sleeping like the dead on the plush leather couch.

But try to get some play from The Honey, and the Sex Patrol is sure to interfere.

Meet Chief Testicles (aka “Westley”), numero uno in the Sex Patrol’s chain of command.  Chief Testicles is no desk jockey – despite being head honcho, he’s usually first on the scene, and always ready to write a citation.  Testicles has a very straightforward belief upon which the Sex Patrol’s Code of Conduct is based: “If I can’t do it, you can’t do it!”  (Even if he’s not quite sure what “it” is yet…)

As far as Chief Testicles is concerned, being intact comes with a serious list of responsibilities.  Between marking the couch, marking the bed, wrestling around on the floor in an attempt to get his diapee off, nipping at Angie’s ankles, sniffing at Angie’s “you know,” generally harassing and haranguing Ollie, and standing on the porch smelling the air for the slightest whiff of a bitch in heat within a 20 mile radius of the backyard, his days are full to the brim.  Hard enough to find time to eat, sleep, and groom!  So he is genuinely offended that I would add to his busy schedule by daring to … you know… do … something.  Like I said, he’s still a bit fuzzy on exactly what that “something” entails.

 

Chief Testicles giving a citizen a firm warning, with Captain Ollie acting as backup. Look at those eyes! He means it!

Directly below Chief Testicles in the chain of command is Captain Ollie.  Admittedly, Ollie’s not completely comfortable with the order of things – in every other way, in our home and pack, Westley (Chief Testicles) is subordinate to Ollie.  But even Ollie has to admit that he just doesn’t have what it takes to be the Chief on this one…  And when I say “what it takes,” I mean equipment – stuff – junk – testicles!  There’s also the fact that Ollie’s got a real soft spot for The Honey, so while he can’t completely forgo his duties on Sex Patrol, he does sometimes choose to turn a blind eye… at least long enough for us to wrap up our elicit acts and hide the evidence before busting in on the scene…  Still, Ollie has earned his Captain stripes.  He may not like breaking up an ongoing disturbance, but he does what he must to try to prevent one from occurring.  Snuggling on the couch?  Okay, but only if Captain Ollie is securely wedged between us.  He says he’s doing it for our own good, and because Chief Testicles ordered him to, but I’ve got a funny feeling he just likes cuddling with The Honey and me.

No police precinct is complete without its fair share of foot soldiers.  In our small municipality of 2 humans and 3 dogs, our “fair share” is one: Officer Angie.  Like many officers pounding the pavement, Angie would rather stay in her comfy crate with a bully stick (akin to a patrol car and a doughnut) than respond to a call.  But when Chief Testicles says to report, she’s there, bright-eyed and bushy-nubbed (she’s a Doberman – she has a nub, not a tail).  Chief Testicles was hoping that Angie’s sheer mass and sleek physique would act as a visual deterrent, intimidating us into compliance.  But it’s really hard to be intimidated by a smiling, clacking, play-bowing, SpazTastic Doberman!

Crating isn’t an option, unless we want the soundtrack of our romantic evening to be one of mewling, crying, barking, and whining.  They know what we’re doing, and they know it’s their job to stop it!

We’ve tried closing the doors, but the Chief and the Captain act as battering rams and try with all their might to break down the door.  Talk about a distraction…  Ignore this initial warning, and the dogs will initiate a full-scale investigation.  Chief Testicles keeps an eye on the door to prohibit escape while Captain Ollie rummages through the trash.  You know, for clues.  Officer Angie says she’s going to search the perimeter, and then she takes herself back to her crate and parks it with a toy or bully stick (don’t tell the Chief!).

Open the door, and they all rush the “Scene of the Cwime,” as Westley says.  They have very high-tech equipment (eyes, ears, and noses) with which they sweep the scene and take notes (mental notes, anyway – damn the lack of opposable thumbs!).  Generally, they find the evidence they need to justify Chief Testicles issuing us a citation, and warning us to pay our fine – or else!!

The good news: the fine usually consists of some liver treats, and maybe a homemade bully stick.

The bad news: this really puts a crimp on our style.

Still, it’s a testament to The Honey that he sticks around through this invasive madness, and generally responds to my frustrated eye rolls with a laugh.  In his best Westley voice, he says, “Sex Patwol stwikes again!”  And the evening ends like the best of nights: all of us Wild Things (2-legged and 4-legged alike) sleeping in a real pile, snuggled together, warm and content.  And smiling.

Can toddlers really be any worse?

 

I Talk to My Dogs – and They Talk Back March 15, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — blackntanclan @ 1:02 pm

"Ollie speaks like a little old man, with far too much wisdom and cynicism for any normal dog."

I know you do it. Because I know I’m not the only one. I talk to my dogs. I tell them how handsome/pretty they are. I tell them what I expect of them. I praise them when they cooperate. I also use them as a sounding board, to muddle through my own mixed up thoughts.

But here’s the thing that always gets me: my dogs talk back.

Crazy, you say? Yeah, right. You know you know what I’m talking about. You talk to your dogs too, and you know you can hear them responding in your head. No, they don’t stand up on their hind legs, gesture to you like Goofy, and actually speak! But they have a unique voice nonetheless, and they aren’t afraid to use it.

Ollie, my genius dog, is surely a human that chose to be reincarnated as a dog (good choice, I say!). He is the smartest dog – and possibly one of the smartest creatures all around – that I’ve ever met. He looks at me, and I know exactly what he’s thinking. I can hear it in my head. Ollie speaks like a little old man, with far too much wisdom and cynicism for any normal dog. And Ollie isn’t afraid to tell me when I’m being a “simple human” or a “stupid two-legger.” Yes, I’ve heard him say these things to me. He doesn’t mind telling me exactly what he thinks and how he feels. He’s an excellent communicator – made more surprising not by the fact that he’s a canid, but by the fact that he’s a male! How many human guys do you know who are that open with their thoughts and feelings, huh?

I’m pretty sure I could have conversations with Ollie about anything, even theoretical physics, but he usually skips out on talking unless it’s a topic that interests him – and he isn’t nearly as interested in theory as he is in fact. Ollie keeps me in line with his down-to-earth straight talk.

"Then there's Angie, my Spastic Fantastic"

Then there’s Angie, my Spastic Fantastic (SpazTastic, for short!). Angie doesn’t say much – she prefers to let her brothers do the talking for her. When she does speak, it’s usually in single-word exclamations. Rarely, I’ll get a simple short sentence from her, but that’s the extent of her “verbal” communicative abilities – she’s far more likely to let me know what she’s feeling through her physical actions, and will often have a “spaz attack” causing her to run at full velocity through my home, in circles, before collapsing on the couch in a heightened state of arousal.

Angie was rehomed when she was 2 years old – before coming to me at that age, she spent most of her life living in a basement, and crated to boot. She wasn’t abused, per se, but she didn’t get any individualized attention, let alone substantial interaction with the wonderful wide world. Angie reminds me of a special needs child: she shuts down or spazzes out when she is confronted with “too much” or “too new.” Still, she’s a lovely dog, inside and out, and she seems quite content with her existence.

Don’t get me wrong: Angie is an entirely capable dog. She’s my favorite camping/backpacking buddy, and she’s never met a person she didn’t like. She’s just special, and she views things in her own particular way. What you see as “children,” she sees as “human puppies.” And she likes them a lot more than “normal puppies.” Where you might see a visitor to my home, she sees “Hands!!” No, seriously – whenever someone comes into the house, I hear Angie exclaim, “Hands!” All she cares about are the 2 new hands that can pet her – and pet her, they will, if she has anything to do with it!

I see nothing wrong with Angie’s unique perception of the world. It’s quite a beautiful, innocent, and gentle thing – as is she.

"If dogs could have ADHD, Wes would be a textbook case."

Finally, there’s Westley, the newest addition to our pack. Despite that, he has a very clear, distinct, and novel voice, and I’ve had no trouble hearing him from the moment he came home. I think that’s one of the reasons I knew he belonged here! See, he was supposed to be a temporary boarder, but somehow, “5 days” turned into “forever.” And I couldn’t be more pleased.

If dogs could have ADHD, Wes would be a textbook case. His thoughts are all over the place. They come and go, quick as lightning, and often seem to correspond to absolutely nothing going on in the environment around him. I’m sure it all makes perfect sense to him, but there are times I’m lost! Westley also has a speech impediment, so he cannot properly pronounce his Ls or Rs. And, in part because he’s such a little thing, his voice is extremely high-pitched.

One thing Wes certainly doesn’t lack is self-confidence. You should hear him proclaim, nearly every time he enters a room, “Heeeeeewe’s Weswey!!” (That’s “Here’s Westley,” for those of you who need a translation!) I’m pretty sure Westley knows exactly how cute he is, and he uses that to his advantage. A lot.

Undoubtedly, Westley’s self-confidence is enhanced by his testicles (which he calls his “stuff,” perhaps because “testicles” is a very large, 3-syllable word, with the letter L in it, and therefore a challenge for him to pronounce – but probably because his testicles are his favorite “stuff” in all the world). He’s a very macho man, in his own eyes…

Like I said, each one has a unique voice, and I can definitely hear them in my head. You (and most of the psychologists in the world) might see this as a problem, but I’ve found it quite helpful over the years. I have a special relationship with my dogs, because I believe I can understand them. Whether that belief is based in reality or fantasy seems secondary to the positive effects it has on our bond.

So, okay, maybe I am a little crazy. But it’s the good kind of crazy! And anyway, my dogs all tell me I’m just fine…

Can you hear your dogs talking back? Do they have a unique voice? What do they say? Comment below and share!

 

 
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