What if you could raise dogs that had no health problems -- seldom sick, no skin problems, never lame, no breeding or whelping problems (no fading puppies, swimmers, no mysterious maladies that killed them off one by one). What if all these problems would just disappear. Would that interest you a little?
Impossible you say, these are just things we have to live with breeding and raising Mastiffs. You've tried all the new drugs, new vaccinations, new foods on the market, new supplements for this and that, but still you have problems.
So what is this new wonder product that will give all these things and how much is it going to cost. Well, its not new (very old in fact), its not a single product, and it probably won't cost much more than what you spend now (including vet bills), just some extra time.
What I am talking about is a holistic approach to raising dogs based on natural methods. You may have seen some of the books on this subject -- most notably Dr. Pitcarin, Juliette de Barracli Levy and Wendy Volhard -- but possibly felt this was either too expensive and time consuming, or just a lot of myths and old wives tales and not worth the trouble. But, if people using these methods have proved it is possible, isn't it worth a try? I think so, and maybe you will too.
What I would like to propose then, is using my animals as a test case (guinea pigs as it were). I started this program very recently on three different dogs: a six year old Rott male with hip dysplasia and some unknown lameness in a front leg who has been prone to hot spots and ear infections; a three year old Aussie male with no apparent health problems; and a 1-1/2 year old Mastiff female with no apparent health problems that I intend breeding. In addition, I have a puppy bitch from Lisa Nicolello which has been raised on natural rearing (NR) from weaning and I will continue the program with her. I will give you regular progress reports, both on their state of health and on what is necessary to make the program work -- cost, time, etc.
Of great interest to me personally, will be the effects on breeding/whelping. My first bitch is linebred on a line which produces large litters. Her full sisters (prior litter two years older) have had litters of 10, 12 and 15. The litters which produced these bitches were both 12 in number. Caesareans were performed in all five cases, four being planned C-Sections without allowing an attempt at natural whelping due to size of litters seen via sonogram, the fifth being performed after 10 puppies were whelped naturally and uterine inertia developed. Three of the five litters were hand raised due to various problems developed by the bitches postpartum -- infection, mastitis and not accepting puppies after anesthesia. One to four puppies in each litter were lost, either stillborn or due to infection, several developing cherry eye (probably due to the infection).
Talking with breeders when first considering the Mastiff (switching from my push-button whelping Aussies), this is what I was told could be normal for Mastiff whelping. But why should it be? What was it about these dogs that caused them to have so many problems? Size alone did not seem to be a logical answer. Information from the authors listed above indicates no whelping problems using natural feeding methods and extremely healthy puppies.
The premise behind all this is that natural, or Nature's methods are the appropriate way to raise all animals. What we have done over the years is overdose our animals on synthetics, drugs, toxic substances and poor quality nutrition. Their whole bodies are gasping for good, clean air (or good, clean food).
All authors advocate feeding of foods raw -- meat (yes, I cringed at this too), veggies and grains. "Light" cooking was recommended for some meats (poultry, pork, fish and rabbit) because of possible parasites, particularly if the meat was not from an organic source. One minute in just boiling water was sufficient. Most grains and root veggies may need some cooking for digestibility. Dairy products used include raw milk, raw goat's milk, buttermilk, plain live culture yogurt and cottage cheese. Raw eggs are included at varying frequencies during the week.
One or two meatless days per week and either a half fast or full fast day per week were recommended by all the natural-rearing authors. Special considerations were made for puppies, pregnant/lactating bitches, older dogs and dogs with special medical problems.
The amounts I am feeding (both main ingredients and supplements) are a combination of all that I have read, as well as discussions with one of the technicians at Dr. Stockner's office who has had her two Rotties on NR for the last three years. These two are seven years old and just radiate good health!
I feed two meals a day, morning for the grains and evening for meat and veggies. My main grain is rolled or flaked oats (about 75%). To that I add a combination of one or more of the following: flaked barley, rye flakes, wheat flakes or corn grits (for about 25%). This is cooked in the microwave using water at about 1-1/2:1 to 2:1 (i.e. 2 cups grain/4 cups water; 5 cups grain/8 cups water). Added to this is a little honey (1 Tbs.), yogurt (2-3 Tbs.), buttermilk (1/2 c.) and some raisins, prunes or other dried fruit. The milk and yogurt help cool down the mixture if cooked in the morning. Alternate methods include soaking the grains in either water, raw milk, buttermilk or vegetable juice (saved from cooking the family veggies) overnight. Or, in the evening bring appropriate amount of water to boil, dump in all the grains, cover, turn off heat and let stand until morning.
Grains can be found at health food stores, regular grocery stores that have some bulk bins and feed stores. As my numbers increase, I am buying in bulk (25- 50#) and storing in the large Rubbermaidž containers that used to house my dry dog food.
The evening meal consists of whatever raw (or lightly steamed meat) you are using for the day, cut in chunks, along with veggies (chopped, grated or steamed), greens (parsley, watercress, spinach, veggie tops -- I usually puree these in a blender or food processor with a little water). Do not use onions or kale. Dr. Dodds has found that these two make a change in the blood cells and can cause anemia.
Various supplements are added to balance the nutrients. Right now I am not using the supplement mixtures suggested in the different books. Rather, a multi- vitamin/mineral supplement powder (VetLine) along with extra Vitamin C and E (according to Dr. Belfield's recommendations) and some essential fatty acids. This has proved to be a much easier way of ensuring nutrient balance.
Well, that's the basics. I know that some of you out there are already using NR and we would love to hear from you on what it has accomplished for your dogs and how you are doing it.
Will keep you posted on how we are doing, as well as giving some tips for preparation and location of sources. For those interested in more detailed information, the following books are recommended reading.