Doing It NaturallyBy Linda Monroe
(With Linda's permission, I have taken portions of a recent e-mail response to questions regarding natural, raw diets which was posted to the Mastiff List. Portions in bold italics are the questions that Linda is responding to. Since this was a long post it will be presented in two sections. We will also be featuring more information on this feeding method from other breeders and their results - Ed.)
Since your post is typical of the responses I get, I thought I would use it to answer all the similar responses. I will preface all this with a few sentences to everyone:
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FEED A NATURAL DIET WITHOUT FIRST LEARNING WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT!!! Read the books on the subject, observe others who feed raw, join a mailing list about natural feeding, and ask questions, read every post, learn as much as you can. If you have reservations about it, DON'T DO IT!!! Do NOT mix a raw diet with commercial food until you learn what foods to add and what to delete, how to balance the calcium/phosphorus ratio, what supplements you will have in excess, etc.
I AM NOT ADVOCATING THAT EVERYONE FEED A NATURAL DIET! DO WHAT YOU THINK IS RIGHT FOR YOU.
If you do decide to feed a natural diet, be prepared for the following:
Beautiful loyal pet Golden Retriever at the clinic once with a wedge-shaped bone stuck at the outlet of the stomach into the small intestine, and the resultant bloat was severe -- dog was so shocky that it died following decompression with a stomach tube before we could even get it into x-ray or surgery.
Was this a raw bone or cooked? Big leg bones are not a problem for obstruction.
Knock wood, so far, I have not had any problems with my dogs eating any kind of bone, be it chicken or beef femurs. If I ever do, I will consider it a problem with that particular dog, and not condemn the others for being more careful chewers.
I never advocate anyone just jump in and start feeding BARF (bones and raw food) without first reading as many books on the subject as they can get their hands on. Dogs on a commercial diet have lost most of their digestive enzymes as well as the muscle tone of the stomach and intestines. BARF must be started slowly and carefully until the dog builds up the enzymes and muscle tone again. The older the dog, the longer it takes. Fresh raw meat and bones have their natural enzymes which help to break down the material and aid digestion. (That=s why meat is hung in coolers for days after slaughter so that the enzymes can break down some of the connective tissue and tenderize the meat.) The same goes for plants also. (That=s why veggies are blanched before freezing, to stop the natural process of the enzymes breaking them down.) Cooked, steamed, processed bones are dead, with the consistency of cement. They are practically indigestible and can cause impaction in the bowel.
But as someone else pointed out, what about the
Saw that one and it was discussed in depth on the Wellpet list with lots of good information, case studies, and research at the Universities. Bottom line is that it has been around for a good while but was misdiagnosed as other diseases. A strong, healthy immune system should be able to handle this just like any other bacteria, protozoa or whatever. I can forward a lot of information on Neospora if you=d like.
Another problem that has not been mentioned here is bacterial infection or toxicosis -- chicken is notorious for Salmonella, and we all know about the E. coli scares in people from undercooked meats. Our dogs are no less at risk than we are. There are a lot of other bugs like that lurking on fresh meats, too. All in all, I can't see where it is worth the risk.
Well, let me tell you what prompted me to go all natural in the first place. It started years ago but the total idea didn't finally come to light until last year when I had all my dogs poisoned by Eagle Kennel Pack, a commercial dry food. I had already started two dogs on natural before the incident, and they were unaffected by disease. The rest came down with diarrhea, skin problems, sloughing the pads, and assorted other ailments. No two were the same. It turned out that the dog food was contaminated with mold, one from the penicillin family. I lost one dog who went into liver and kidney failure, a three year old bitch. Fighting with Eagle was worthless.
Prior to that, I had ten pups come down with Salmonella from contaminated powdered Just Born milk replacer (Farnum). After mucho money spent at my vet trying to find what was causing diarrhea and illness, treating the pups with antibiotics, and one dying, the nine remaining pups ended up at Texas A&M for several weeks. ($2,500 there alone!). They finally found Salmonella in the pups, the formula, and an unopened can as well. It was a horrible and long battle to save the pups, but we saved all nine. I had to place all as pets except the one I kept since there was no way to know how much damage may have been done to internal organs.
When I first started testing, and did thyroids, ALL of my Mastiffs were low. I got suspicious and tested a Basset and my current Chihuahua. They were low also! I was feeding Diamond at the time. I started looking at the iodine content and switched to a food that had the most. All improved and none needed Soloxine (thyroid replacement medication). Hmmmmm . . .
Over the years (I=ve been married nearly 30 years), I have had terrible things happen to my animals from poor quality control at feed plants and have lost thousands of dollars as well as many good animals. For instance: $1,900 worth of exotic waterfowl died when the feed was found to contain 5% salt instead of .5%. $800 worth of show rabbits died when the feed was found to contain rat poison. Seems they sweep up the fines off the floor and swept up a bar of rat bait and tossed it in the processor.
Before feeding raw and natural I have had litters born with E. coli, staph, and God knows what, or become ill shortly thereafter.
The bacteria, protozoa, fungus and disease is there whether we feed raw or not!
I got to pondering why the stray dogs can have a litter under a porch, out in the woods, in dirt, half starved, and eaten up with who knows what, yet they seem to manage to raise pups just fine! These poor bitches have to eat out of garbage cans, hunt rats, eat road kill, probably not eat for days, and drink from muddy puddles if they are lucky, yet they manage to have milk, raise and wean pups. What is the deal here? I used to scream at my vet that I was going to let my dogs breed in the back yard, have pups under the porch, and harvest them when they came out! (Haven=t tried that one yet! :))
Then it dawned on me what the difference was. One, these strays are exposed to every parasite, disease and bacteria known to man. They either build an immunity or die. They are eating a varied diet of all sorts of things, including bones, guts, left overs, peelings, and stuff from garbage, whole animals in the form of rats, road kill, whatever, and yet still manage to live and reproduce. What about wild dogs, wolves, coyotes, dingo's, etc.? Hmmmm . . . they live off of killed prey, scavenge dead carcasses, raid gardens for fruit and vegetables, swallow mice whole, raid henhouses, and even trash dumps. They aren=t dead, are they?
Dogs and wolves are identical genetically and cannot be differentiated from one another by their DNA, therefore, they must be very closely related, and evolved from the same ancestors. Up until about 40-50 years ago, there was no commercial dog food, nothing came out of a bag. Dogs were fed what the people got, and the scraps from butchered cattle, pigs, sheep, etc., whatever was not used for people. Some were lucky to have a bone tossed their way if anything at all. Yet, they still thrived, reproduced, and were selectively bred to become the different breeds we have today. Slaughtering of animals was not regulated, inspected, stamped, disinfected, and chilled, frozen and preserved like it is today, and most never heard of bacteria, much less know what it was. Why didn't everyone become sick and die? Because they were exposed to disease in small doses and built up an immunity to just about everything. They weren't raised in sterile environments with sterile food, were one day they suddenly got exposed to something and got horribly ill. Same for the human children that played in dirt, got cut, helped with the butchering, etc. Horrible plagues happen when a previously unknown entity enters a population that has never been exposed and have no natural immunity to that particular disease. That's what is happening right now, all over the world, and is happening to our dogs because we raised them in the most sterile environment that we know how. We don't let them eat raw meat, drink milk, or drink out of stagnant ponds. I decided to see what would happen if I let my dogs be dogs and let nature take it's course.
My first Mastiff, Thor, drug home a deer skin that was putrid and gross. I found him chewing on it out in the woods. (Some idiot evidently was poaching.) He also killed and ate my turkeys and probably a few chickens as well. That's when I built my first kennel, to lock up Thor, and save him from dying a horrible death and to save my birds.
Years ago, my old Basset Hound dug up and ate some rotten chickens that had spoiled in the freezer and were buried. Had to bathe her for days to get the smell off. She didn't even get sick past a little diarrhea for a few days, not medical treatment.
Most of my dogs would graze on grass and weeds and vomit up undigested grass and bile. They ate wood and rocks, and chewed on everything.
My Kuvaz, who was supposed to be guarding the livestock, killed and ate them and died for her effort to educate me as to her nutritional needs.
A turkey flew over the fence in with a litter of eight week old pups, curious no doubt. The pups gutted the turkey alive and I had to fight them off and then kill the turkey to put her out of her misery. I hated those pups after that and didn't keep any of them!
If only I had paid attention years ago to what they were all trying to tell me! I am a little slow on the draw sometimes, and this one took me years to get the hints.
I started slow, introducing raw meats, veggies, fruit, milk products, one thing at a time, over a period of time. Some adjusted quicker than others, but all adjusted eventually. The younger ones and pups were the easiest. It's only been a little over a year since I started this, and for some, only a few months. I don't know how this saga will turn out in the long run, but I intend to find out.
I am not saying that feeding natural is a cure all for every problem, or that it is the right thing for everyone to do. I just know that it is the right thing for ME to do and that is how I choose to raise my dogs here and now. I may be crazy or eccentric, but that is my choice. Everyone has to choose to do what they think is best, and what is right for them. I'll let you know in a few years how it all turns out.
Sorry for the book, but I wanted to cover as much as I could at one time so I can get out and finish up that chicken pen, build a garden, and figure out where the new calves and lambs are going to go, not to mention the 256 unanswered e-mails sitting in my in box. I'm not chicken about feeding raw nor sheepish about discussing it, even though most people have a cow when they find out what my dogs are pigging out on. They think I am just offal. Hey, I'm not going to duck, so might as well go whole hog, huh? Anyone want to pick a bone with me? ;-)
Just my $10 worth.
(More articles for our "Doing It Naturally" column with appear in coming issues. Anyone who would like to "come out of the closet" and tell us how they are doing it is welcome).