THE ORIGINAL DOGGY DIET
After embarking on Paleo, we were inevitably drawn to question the validity of feeding our dogs a carbohydrate-based diet. We were certainly not naïve regarding the influence of big business when it comes to dog food and had researched carefully and bought the most ‘natural’ kibble that we could find, aware that many brands contained all sorts of unsavoury ingredients. However, it was not until we thought carefully about the diet best suited to people that we extended this logically to our hounds.
With any animal in captivity, we want to replicate their natural diet as much as possible in order for them to thrive. What zoo keeper would feed bread to lions or cereal to penguins as their routine diet? Although the dog has been domesticated alongside man for possibly up to 32,000 years and no doubt shared his food, we should look at the diet of wild ‘dogs’ (wolves and the like) to really understand the food that dogs will thrive on (rather than merely tolerate). In the same way that we look at the diet of pre-agricultural humans, we need to go back in time to find answers.
Perhaps we don’t need to go as far back as we think. The rise in the manufacture of kibble food for dogs has been a phenomenon of the last few decades. My mother’s generation remembers feeding their dogs meat (from specialist dog meat stalls) supplemented with scraps from the table. There was not a bag of kibble in sight. This craze for mainly carbohydrate diets appears to be a very recent development.
So there are two questions to be answered:
How did domesticated dogs survive without ‘complete diet’ kibble before the last few decades? Surely they would have slowly died out from lack of ‘carefully balanced’ nutrients.
Even more important, how did wolves survive and thrive over millions of years on a diet that is almost carbohydrate free? Are they so different from domesticated dogs that they need a completely different diet?
In view of all this, it’s a wonder that there are any dogs or wolves left.
Taking the Paleo template as a guide, we can begin by looking at the average diet for our doggies’ ancestors:
Meat – comprising of fat, offal, bones and muscle. Any requirement for glucose would be fulfilled by gluconeogenesis– the conversion of non-carbohydrate sources to glucose which takes place mainly in the liver. In addition to this, wolves scavenged for food such as eggs, fish, berries or fruit and insects if meat was scarce.
As the wolf became domesticated alongside man, he inevitably shared his food and it could be argued that dogs – like humans – have genetically adapted to certain foods. However, as with humans, we are looking for foods to thrive on – not foods that are merely tolerated.
With all this in mind, and with the help of our knowledgeable friend Angela, we switched our hound’s diet to raw meat comprising of muscle meat, offal, bones (never cooked), chicken wings, hearts, plenty of fatty cuts, occasional eggs and oily fish. This translates to a 70:20:10 – 80:15:5 ratio (meat:edible bone:organs) with half of the organs being liver). We also whip them up a raw smoothie with berries, seaweed and kale. Our girl was horrified and refuses to eat raw except on rare occasions, so we at least switched her to a non-wheat diet comprising of meat, brown rice, sweet potatoes, veg, offal, eggs and fish etc. all cooked in a stew which she seems to enjoy.
The boys have been doing so well and it is a joy to see them crunching bones (while simultaneously cleaning their teeth) and munching lumps of meat. They like the offal flash-fried (in dripping) though and just won’t touch it raw so I guess a compromise is in order as they have otherwise adapted so well. They have maintained excellent weight and are full of energy with wonderful coats. The other thing we have noticed is that their faeces are much smaller and well-formed. They are making better use of the food their food with less waste! Yes, it is slightly more time-consuming to buy and prepare this (as opposed to putting a bowl of kibble down), but we feel that we are doing the best we can for our hounds by returning them as close as possible to the ‘original doggy diet’.
There are some excellent internet sites on raw feeding sites with plenty of discussions and advice, so please research and read up if you are unsure or hesitant before deciding to switch.
Here is a nice article from Mark’s Daily Apple on raw feeding: The Primal Eating Plan for Dogs