Dog eating raw fish : #rawfood

Why you should be feeding your pets raw meat, and how

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My review of “Work Wonders: Feed Your Dog Raw Meaty Bones” by Tom Lionsdale

A book on feeding your pets raw meat attached to bones.

So, you may be thinking, not another book on raw diet for dogs?! I suppose there isn’t a topic as talked about as feeding your pet’s raw meat. In the topic of pet foods, the subject of raw food is as controversial as natural cancer treatment. But unlike the latter, feeding your pet a raw diet has some scientific merits and backing from credible veterinarians. “…Feed your pets raw meaty bones” is one such book.

Dr. Tom Lionsdale is an Australian veterinarian and a graduate of the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) at the University of London. As far as credentials for a veterinary specialist go, nothing beats a degree from the RVC. It is one of the best veterinary colleges of the world and came on top in the QS World University Rankings in 2019.

In addition, it speaks for the strength of Lionsdale’s convictions that as a student at the RVC, he was taught exactly the opposite of what he believes now to be the truth: raw meat and bones are much better for your pet’s health than processed industrial food.

As a 1972 graduate of the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London I  was trained to believe that pet dogs and cats are best fed on processed food hygienically sealed in cans and packets. Oral disease and ‘dog breath’ were scarcely  considered, being accepted as a commonplace condition of the domestic carnivore. As a student, sitting at the back of the class, it suited me to subscribe to the prevailing orthodoxy.

(from Raw Meaty Bones, Tom Lionsdale)

This is also what distinguishes “Raw Meaty Bones” from other books about raw diet for animals: it is written by a trained veterinarian with many years of experience in veterinary practice under his belt. It is also a book with tonnes of actual data and research backing up each and every line.

To begin with, Dr. Lionsdale debunks many common myths surrounding raw diet for pets. One of the common ones is that bones can tear up the intestines of your pet. However, this is only true for cooked bones. Cooked bones tend to be splintered and can easily pass into your pet’s intestines.

Other arguments against raw meat are bacterial infections, constipation and broken teeth. Contrary to these fears, animals on a raw diet actually have better teeth and better intestinal functions. However handling raw food requires more care both during preparation and feeding. However Dr. Lionsdale notes that no bacterial infection was noted among the animals in his testing.

For those who are unaware of the raw food movement, it might seem confusing why you need to feed your pets a diet of raw meat all of a sudden. Well, apparently, a lot of medical problems faced by domesticated cats and dogs can be traced back to their diet.

Some examples are (from Raw Meaty Bones):

  1. Gum and dental problems: In the wild during feeding, animals get to exercise their teeth. Tearing meat of bones takes effort and the act of grinding the bones can remove the deposits of plaque or tartar. But in domestic pets fed on moist diets there is little to no effort or griding.
  2. Gastrointestinal disease, whose symptoms are vomiting and diarrhoea: For pets affected by intestinal troubles, The British Small Animal Veterinary Association support feeding them raw meat.
  3. Skin and liver disease are common among cats and dogs fed a cooked processed diet.
  4. FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease): A common problem among older cats, especially males. Symptoms include blood in urine and frequent trips to the litter box. The link between dry cat food and urinary infections are well-established. In Raw Meaty Bones, the author notes:
    Alison Lambert, Veterinary Business Manager for Pedigree Petfoods, a division of the Mars Corporation, states:    
    We are pleased to announce that our understanding of the risk factors associated with feeding dry cat food has allowed us to develop a product which helps minimise the risk.

Dr. Lionsdale further explains that there is very little understanding of the digestion process, and this has given rise to many misconceptions. In fact, raw meat gets digested a lot faster than cooked or processed meat because raw cells contain active cellular enzymes that help in faster digestion. Thus your pet’s digestive system has to work less harder to break down raw food than processed food, because processed food lacks these enzymes.

The book also goes into details of research by David Kronfeld, D.V.M., professor at the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school, on the protein contents of major pet food brands. The result was that commercial pet food lacks important aminoacids or are much more expensive than commonly available protein sources such as eggs for the same amount of proteins. You can read about the importance of protein content in pet food here.

Of all the books on raw diet I have read, this book seemed the most credible in terms of the arguments, data and research on raw meat based diets. Of course, in terms of actual research funding, I doubt any major organization would fund such research. Most research into this are actually made by establised pet food brands like Royal Canin.

The book also contains step-by-step instructions on preparing and choosing your pet’s food, for both cats and dogs.

Is a raw diet appropriate for your pet?

When it comes to my own pets, who are much older, I would be hesitant to try out raw food and drastically alter their diet at such an advanced age, for many reasons.

  1. Due to their age, their immune systems are much weaker.Raw food has a larger chance of having bacteria and other pathogens. Great care has to be taken in the way food is prepared and to make sure it doesn’t come in contact with other articles and products found in the kitchen.
  2. I don’t know how their intestines would react to the sudden change in diet.
  3. Lastly, older dogs are much more likely to develop worm and intestinal problems and have very fragile systems.

Before you decide to change your dog’s diet, it is best to first consult a veterinarian experienced with raw diets. However the book “..Raw Meaty Bones” will give you all the information you need to correctly make the transition, if you decide to make the plunge.

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