Monday, January 25, 2010

Raw-Meaty-Bones Can't be a Complete and Balanced Diet, Can It?

When an advocate of Nature's pet diet -- raw-meaty-bones -- begins a conversation with a kibble-feeder, finding common ground is difficult.  Participants in the conversation begin with very different understandings about the nature of companion animals and their dietary needs.  I had this experience yesterday.

A very nice lady brought her female Labrador retriever to my kennel to talk about breeding.  The dog looked okay on the outside, but the owner said she is itchy, and I could see that her teeth have plaque deposits along the gum line. She has fed her dog a premium kibble for her three years of life, but, with some embarrassment, she admitted giving her leftovers frequently.  This lucky dog has some variety in her kibble diet.

I explained that my dogs are fed raw-meaty-bones, and they don't itch or have plaque on their teeth.  She accepted the idea of feeding raw beef bones to keep their teeth clean, but feeding raw poultry astonished her.  Like most pet owners, she has been indoctrinated for decades to believe that chicken bones splinter, causing potentially fatal problems. 

The fact that my dogs are fed only raw-meaty-bones, raw eggs, and some leftovers surprised her.  The idea that a meaty-bones diet provides complete nutrition for dogs is a radical  departure from pet food manufacturer's propaganda and from veterinary belief that pets' nutritional needs are so complex, only experts can concoct a suitable diet.  How could a simple diet of raw-meaty bones be complete and balanced?

We talked about dogs as a subspecies of wolves, and the fact that dogs share 99.8 % of their genes with gray wolves.  What do wolves eat?  Isn't whole prey the natural diet of wolves?  Yes, obviously.  Don't wolves get all the nutrients they need from eating whole prey?  Of course, they must.  How do wolves keep their teeth clean and gums healthy?  By gnawing on meaty bones.  Obviously so, but why then do veterinarians recommend kibbles and canned mush as the preferred diet for dogs/wolves?

This last question opens a Pandora's box of corrupt veterinary education, funded by pet-food companies, for the financial benefit of the manufacturers.  More than 40 years ago, the founder of Hill's Science Diet had the prescience to invest in veterinary schools, to gain control of pet nutrition courses, and to indoctrinate vet students to believe commercial pet foods provide "100% complete and balanced" pet nutrition. 

Today, many pet nutrition courses in vet schools are taught by pet-food company employees or by faculty with close industry ties.  Instructors may not recommend specific brands, but the textbooks used in pet nutrition courses  are written by pet-food company employees, and the course content assumes that commercial pet foods are the only right way to feed cats and dogs.  Alternative diets are trashed as nutritionally flawed and dangerous.

The answer to why veterinarians recommend kibble and canned mush over raw-meaty-bones is they were taught in vet school to believe that commercial pet foods are perfect nutrition for pets, and they were not taught to think about the natural diet pets evolved to eat. The raw-meaty-bones diet makes sense only if you can forget all you've been taught about what pets should be fed.  Unlearning decades of propaganda and feeling comfortable with raw-meaty-bones is a struggle, for pet owners and for the few veterinarians who question the received wisdom they were fed in school.

My visitor watched her dog slurp up lean beef pieces and gnaw intensely on a beef neck bone, which she was very reluctant to give up when time came for them to leave.  The bone had to be bagged to take home with her.  She had never seen her Lab eat raw meat or latch onto a meaty bone as though her life depended on it.  When she comes back next week, we'll have another lesson on raw-meaty-bones.

Whether she will be convinced that raw-meaty-bones can replace kibble will depend on her ability to rethink decades of advice about pet food.  Our conversation began to make sense to her when she could consider dogs' evolution and identity as wolves.  Evolution is the key element in acceptance of a whole-prey/rmb diet for pets.  Evolution is the common ground our conversation found.

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