Sunday, January 31, 2010

Kibble versus RMB: A Cost Comparison

Some people tell me they can't afford to feed their dogs raw-meaty-bones.  They feed kibble, because they believe raw meats and meaty bones cost more.  I did a cost comparison for Hawaii dogs.  Admittedly, our prices are higher than mainland prices for almost everything, because more than 90% of foods are shipped into the state from the mainland.  But let's look at comparative costs of feeding kibble versus rmb, some of which also comes from mainland sources.

The first problem in a comparison is that kibbles and meats are sold in pounds and priced per lb.  But recommended amounts of kibble to feed daily are given on kibble bags in cups.  Cups of kibble do not equate easily to pounds, because kibbles differ in density.  One cup of a premium kibble may weight 1.5 times as much as a store-brand kibble.  The lower price of the store brand conceals the fact that more of it must be fed to provide the same number of calories to the pet.  Thus, a consumer is unlikely to be able to make a good price comparison or to know the actual cost of feeding a selected kibble to a pet.

To make a price comparison of  kibble and raw-meaty-bones, I chose a premium kibble with a 30-year track record of sales,Wysong Maintenance.  It's not fancy and does not pretend to be "natural", but it begins processing with healthy ingredients and adds probiotics and nutraceuticals for extra nutrition.  3.5 cups of Wysong Maintenance weighs exactly one pound.  A Wysong Maintenance bag says to feed a 50-pound dog about 3.5 cups/ day.

The metric for feeding rmb is about 2% of the dog's adult weight/ day.  A 50-pound dog would be fed a pound of rmb/ day.  So, a fair comparison is the cost of one pound of Wysong kibble with one pound of rmb -- both enough to feed a 50-pound dog for a day.

Kona Raw Pet Food Co-op, like hundreds of raw pet-food co-ops across North America, buys meats and meaty bones at wholesale prices for members.  Let's  average the cost of chicken ($0.99/lb), beef organ meats ($0.80/lb), beef muscle meats ($1.75/lb), and meaty bones ($1.05/lb) in a ratio of 35% chicken, 20% organs, 30% beef, and 15% meaty bones.  The average cost of one pound of meat in this ratio is $1.44.  Feeding a 50-pound dog a varied, rmb diet costs about $1.44/day. If we fed more chicken and less beef, the price would be less.  If we substituted some pork for some of the beef, the cost would be less. 

The cost of one pound of Wysong Maintenance in Hawaii is $2.00.  Lest you think, this brand is relatively expensive, I analyzed the prices of pet foods from PETCO, a large national pet chain with a local store. All of their "premium" brand kibbles cost between $2.00 and $3.33/lb.  Compared to an excellent, varied, rmb diet, premium kibbles cost 39% to 131%  more than raw meats and meaty bones.

Only plain and store-brand dog chows cost less than $2/lb.  Purina costs $0.85/lb.  Let's suppose that you have to feed 1.5 times more Purina chow to provide a calorie content comparable to Hill's Science Diet or Wysong Maintenance.  The real cost of Purina chow is $1.27/day for a 50-pound dog. For pet owners who feed non-premium kibbles, a diet of chicken ($0.99/lb), beef organ meat ($0.95/lb), and raw meaty beef bones ($1.05/lb) is price-competitive and far healthier.

Pouring kibble from a bag is easy.  Handing dogs raw-meaty bones is also pretty easy, once you get the idea.  A new member of Kona Raw Pet Food Co-op said to me yesterday, with some consternation, that she would have to change the place she usually fed her three dogs from the lanai to outdoors.  Yes, I said, and you won't have anything to clean up.  Pet owners who have fed kibble for years have some adjustments to make in their thinking to feed rmb. Most of the time, you don't need bowls, so there are no dishes to wash.

A price-comparison of raw meats and meaty bones show that feeding kibble is usually more expensive and certainly less healthy, both for the dogs' teeth and for their lifetimes.  No excuses: A rmb diet is both cost-effective and far better for pets.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Competing with a Puppy Mill

An old saying sums up my feeling today: "Bad money drives out good."  Perhaps, I shouldn't be pessimistic, but competing with a kibble-fed, puppy mill is hard for a proud breeder of Labrador retrievers.

It all started three years ago, when my then-friend and fellow breeder had a handful of dogs and took good care of her puppies.  She ordered raw meats and meaty bones from the same meat processing plant that supplies my kennel.  She also fed Honest Kitchen's dehydrated meats and veggies, at considerable expense.  At the same time, I was feeding raw-meaty-bones and a homemade concoction of cooked brown rice, minced veggies, raw eggs, and assorted home-grown fruits.  We were both proud not to be feeding kibble to our dogs or our puppies.

About the same time I discovered Raw Meaty Bones and changed my dogs' diet to rmb exclusively, she began to feed her dogs and puppies mostly kibble.  She and her husband had bought a larger property and installed a gorgeous pool that turned out to cost far more than planned.  Finances began to dominate everything, including care and breeding of the dogs.  From a kennel of 6 dogs, she expanded her brood to 12 and later to 18, including a dozen females of breeding age.  Two years ago, she produced at least 30 puppies, last year 40+, and this year promises a bumper crop of 75 to 80 puppies.

My kennel has a consistent record of three to four litters a year, with about 20 puppies total.  I care for each and every litter in a whelping box in my bedroom, followed by a few weeks in a special puppy yard by the house, when puppies are big enough to climb out of the whelping box.  Their mother visits them at will to continue to nurse them until they leave at 8 to 9 weeks of age.  They get lots of attention from the many people who come to the farm.  At three weeks, when they begin solid foods, they are fed minced beef, ground beef heart, raw eggs, and a bit of yogurt.  When they can chew, they get chicken wings and graduate to chicken legs, hunks of beef heart and liver, and meaty bones. 

The other breeder used to have the same feeding routine, when she had a smaller number of puppies.  Now, she has multiple whelping boxes all over the house, weans the puppies at 3 weeks, shoves them out into pens at some distance from the house and leaves large bowls of kibble around for them to eat at will.  She alone cares for as many as a dozen litters, along with many other chores she has undertaken to keep their financial ship afloat -- she raises, picks, and delivers flowers to sell for lei, refines and packages honey for sale, and makes beeswax candles to sell at craft fairs.  This woman is an entrepreneur, but puppies cannot be getting the care and attention they need to become calm, happy family companions.  She places many puppies before 8 weeks of age, which is poor practice.  It is understandable, however, that getting rid of as many puppies, as early as possible, makes her overburdened life that much easier.

Last year she ran continuous advertisements for puppies from March through August in the state's largest newspaper and in the local paper.  Nothing was stated in her ads about the parents of the puppies, whether they had hip and elbow certifications or eye examinations, and how the puppies were fed or cared for.  Some visitors to her kennel remarked on the dogs' crowded conditions and the chaotic situation, with so many puppies that she could not keep them straight.  They also remarked on some puppies' unhealthy coats and poor general appearance.  A kibble diet and human neglect can do that to young puppies.

As I consider how to sell my 3 or 4 litters of puppies this year, I find it hard to differentiate my kennel from hers in public statements.  Bad-mouthing competitors is not attractive.  I can stress the raw-meaty-bones diet, the weeks of maternal care, the healthy condition of all my dogs, their daily exercise regime, and how my puppies are well-socialized.  Success in attracting buyers will have to depend on their discerning eyes and ears, to see and hear our different ways of breeding and raising puppies. 

Hawaii is a small market for so many Lab puppies.  With a total population of 1.3 million, selling nearly 100 Lab puppies a year is a challenge.  I hope that as many potential buyers as possible with visit my kennel and hers to see the differences and that they will have some standards of care in mind, by which to compare the two.  Competing with a puppy mill is an unattractive business.

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.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Changing Assumptions About Pets' Diets

What if people's education about food began with the assumption that all food comes in cardboard packages and cans.  Assume that all edibles are cooked, processed, and preserved with various chemicals and additives.  Suppose that people were warned never to eat uncooked fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, for fear of germs that could be contained in and on them.  More processing makes better foods, such as white bread and canned peas, rather than whole grains and fresh vegetables.  Further, imagine people were told to choose one or two foods and to eat them at every meal, for fear of digestive upsets and allergies.  Suppose that people's dietary education began with these assumptions.

Veterinary education about pet diets begins with the assumption that all pet foods come in bags and cans.  They are taught that commercial pet foods provide a "100% complete and balanced" diet that is upset by the addition of any table scraps or other foods.  Pets' digestive systems are so delicate that they need to be fed the same food daily, for fear of intestinal upsets, allergic responses, or other illnesses.  Vets are taught to guide their clients to choose a single kibble or canned food and to feed it daily for the pet's lifetime.

Pet nutrition, as taught in veterinary schools, begins with the assumption that raw foods are dangerous and that commercial pet foods are the answer to pet health.  Pet nutrition courses proceed, then, to analyze ingredients in commercial pet foods and to teach vets how to prescribe more limited diets for pets with allergic responses to ingredients in ordinary pet foods.  When pets develop chronic diseases and auto-immune disorders from the monotonous, inappropriate diet, vets are taught to treat the symptoms of these disorders with antihistamines and germ-fighting remedies.  It does not occur to them that commercial pet foods are making pets ill, because foods for pets comes in bags and cans.

Vet students are given commercial pet foods for their own pets and to sell to raise funds for student activities.  Some students are directly funded by pet-food scholarships and research grants.  The assumption that pet-food companies know exactly how to feed companion animals goes unchallenged  in veterinary education.

Suppose that veterinary education began with an examination of the evolutionary history of companion animals.  Imagine that a pet nutrition course began with the question, "What did dogs and cats evolve to eat?"  A course segment on wolves and wild cats would expose students to information about whole prey, which are the principal diet of wolves and wild cats.  Whole prey, such as deer and elk, rabbits and grouse, are exceeding complex, living organisms that have not been duplicated in any pet-food laboratory.  So, what would contemporary pet owners be best advised to feed their domesticated wolves and cats?  Most owners cannot provide whole prey, but they can provide the major constituents in whole prey -- muscle meats, organ meats, and meaty bones -- that are easily available in every grocery store.

If veterinarians were educated to understand pets' real dietary needs, they would advise owners to feed raw-meaty-bones.  Cats cannot even digest many starches found in commercial pet foods.  These foods irritate cats' bowels and cause intestinal distress.  Carbohydrate-heavy diets sicken cats, give them urinary-tract stones and other fatal disorders.  Cats are exclusive carnivores that require a diet of animal nutrients to be healthy.  Dogs, like wolves, can subsist on starchy diets in times of famine, but they need diets of proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins from animal sources to have long, healthy lives.  If veterinarians understood dogs' and cats' evolutionary history, they would understand their dietary needs.

Veterinary education makes sure that students begin with the assumption that commercial pet foods are the only foods pets should be fed -- ever. To justify this inappropriate diet, pet nutrition courses begin with the false assumption that dogs/wolves are omnivores, like people, who can be fed a starch-heavy diet.  There is no evidence whatever that dogs/wolves are omnivores.  In fact, the evolutionary and genetic evidence is overwhelming that dog/wolves are "opportunistic carnivores", who kill and eat whole prey, scavenge other carnivores' kills, and subsist for brief periods on vegetative matter, when no prey are available.  Diets of feral dogs reinforce the truth about dogs' carnivorous nature; their guts are full of small prey, not starches.

Justifying a starchy diet for cats is even more difficult.  Cats, vets admit, are "obligate carnivores", who require meats and meaty bones to be healthy.  Yet, dry cat foods they recommend contain large percentages of starches that are required to extrude kibble from machines.  Commercial cat foods contain more proteins and fats than dog foods, but not all of these ingredients are from animal sources.  Oh well, vets are taught that pet owners are so lazy they will not feed anything that requires more effort than pouring kibble from a bag, so they may as well recommend commercial pet foods for cats and treat the resulting illnesses with canned mush and prescription medicines. 

I do not agree that pet owners knowingly feed their pets inadequate diets that make them ill and shorten their lives.  .If veterinarians advised clients to feed dogs and cats raw meats and meaty bones, educated them to select an appropriate variety of raw-meaty-bones for their pets, and to handle raw foods carefully (for their own safety more than the pets'), I believe most pet owners would choose to feed beloved pets raw diets -- or they'd choose to keep rodents or birds as pets.  Pets are family members in most households today.  Owners want them to live long, healthy lives.  Feeding them raw-meaty-bones is the only way to assure them long, healthy lives.

If veterinary education began with assumptions about the relevance of pets' evolutionary history to their contemporary dietary needs, pets' lives and owner's purses would benefit enormously.  Losers would be kibble-makers and canned mush providers, and the vets who treat the illnesses these diets create.  The fact that pet-food manufacturers control small animal medicine, and its teaching, makes this outcome unlikely in the short run, but inevitable.

More and more pet owners are wising up to the massive pet food fraud.  Eventually, pet food manufacturers will have offer a closer approximation to raw meats and bones, and vet education will have to be modified to support a new "reality".  Pet owners, meanwhile, can understand how inadequate is the advice they are likely to get from their vets, whose assumptions about pet foods begin with cans of cooked mush and bags of extruded kibble.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What's Wrong With Pedigreed Dogs?

A video-expose of poor breeding practices in Britain led to a national inquiry into scandalous problems in pedigreed dog breeding, care, and shows.  The legendary Crufts dog show lost sponsorships, and respected animal welfare groups were called to account.  The national iquiry was led by Professor Sir Patrick Bateson, an esteemed Cambridge academic.

The inquiry commission lamented puppy mills that use poor breeding practices and fail to socialize puppies properly.  These pitiful, pedigreed puppies are sold through pet shops to an ignorant public that does not understand sound breeding and the early socialization that is needed to produce good family pets.  They lamented breeding practices that emphasize extreme breed characteristics at the expense of dogs' health; for example, extreme length and short legs in Basset Hounds and Dachshunds, deformed heads in bulldogs, and the like.  They chastised breeders for not understanding the deleterious effects of inbreeding and inheritance of diseases in many breeds of pedigreed dogs.

What they totally failed to understand is the critical role of diet in the health of pedigreed (and all) dogs.  Because more than 90% of all dogs in the UK and other developed countries are fed a high-starch diet, they failed to see that many health problems result from a totally inappropriate diet for carnivorous canines.  When nearly all dogs are fed commercial pet foods, it is not easy to discover the huge negative impact of this diet on dogs' health.  But to understand the myriad health problems of pedigreed dogs, it was critical to include improper diet in their inquiry.

We know from veterinary authorities that 85% of dogs have serious gum disease by three years of age.  Gum infections challenge immune systems, pour toxins into major organs, and cause chronic disorders that sicken and eventually kill masses of pedigreed dogs. If they had considered the good dental condition of wolves, who eat whole prey, they could have questioned why domesticated wolves (dogs) suffer so many illnesses from infected mouths.

The answer is simple: Kibbles and canned mush coat teeth with a gummy sludge that promotes gum disease, and dogs fed these foods have no way to clean their teeth.  Wolves clean their teeth by gnawing on meaty bones.  Unless dogs are given raw meaty bones, they cannot clean their teeth.  Veterinary advice to dog owners to brush dogs' teeth daily is not an adequate solution, as demonstrated by epidemic dental disease among pedigreed dogs and others.

One recommendation that could have come from Professor Bateson's review of pedigreed dogs' breeding and care would be a diet to support their lifelong health.  Because dogs share 99.8% of their genes with gray wolves and are classified as a subspecies of gray wolves, it is obvious that dogs' diet should be a close approximation to whole prey.  That close approximation is called raw-meaty-bones.

The inquiry commission lost a great opportunity to educate breeders and dog owners about proper feeding of carnivorous pets.  No one raised the diet issue, because everyone has been indoctrinated to believe commercial pet foods are an appropriate canine diet.  A massive, international myth, funded by global pet food companies, promotes cooked starches as "100% complete and balanced" diets for dogs.  Questioning this myth requires unlearning 50 years of pet food propaganda.  In addition, Professor Bateson thanks pet food companies for their cooperation and support of the inquiry.  Commission members may not have been motivated to indict their supporters.

The inquiry report highlights important issues in dog breeding and puppy care, but they failed to see the underlying destruction of dogs' heath by commercial pet foods.  From weaning to death, dogs are stressed and sickened by these foods.  Educating the public to demand responsible dog breeding and puppy care are valuable lessons, but, to improve the health and lives of all dogs, owners need to understand why and how to feed them raw-meaty-bones.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Raw Meats for Hunting Trips and RMB at Home

Late yesterday afternoon a man with a young voice called about pet food.  He said he's just landed in Kona with his dog and forgot to bring any dog food with him.  From his Smartphone at the airport, he's found my web site for raw pet foods and wondered if he could come by.  He said he's been feeding more "natural" foods for some time and recently had been buying frozen, packaged meats and meaty bones for his dog.  He asked to come to talk with  me about his dog's diet and to buy some foods.  Although it was getting late, I agreed.

He arrived about an hour later, after many cell phone calls and repeated navigation errors.  My friend Mark had to meet him at an intersection and guide him to the house.  Out of a blue SUV hopped a young man in his late twenties, leaving a German Wirehair Pointer in the car.  Mike explained he is a weekend bird hunter, who flies his dog to other islands to hunt pheasant and other game birds. To feed his dog on hunts, he was especially interested in Wysong raw, dehydrated meats that can be taken into the field and kept safely without refrigeration. 

We adjourned to the dog kitchen, where I showed him the array of Wysong Archetype products, and he purchased a week's worth of raw-dehydrated foods for his dog.  Mark and I kept talking about raw-meaty-bones, the benefits to clean teeth and healthy gums, and showing him the large variety of meats and meaty bones in my refrigerator and freezers.  Mike was impressed and promised to give more rmb a try at home.  He left with a large meaty soup bone for his dog.

It's odd how opportunities to spread the word about raw feeding arise unexpectedly.  Here is an affluent young man, who had realized that even super-premium kibble is still primarily starches that are not a good diet for dogs. He had begun to buy frozen, raw pet foods and to look for guidance.  He had not realized that dogs could eat fresh meats and meaty bones right out of ordinary grocery store coolers.

It's interesting to see how pet-food propaganda has to be unlearned, before people can use common sense about carnivore diets.  Mark and I emphasized the economy of feeding a variety of rmb that are not prized as human foods, but I think economy is not this young man's principal issue.  Anyone who can rent a plane to fly his dog to bird hunts around Hawaii can probably feed him anything he wants.  Yet, he needed assurance that feeding meats and meaty bones he can buy at any grocery store would be a good diet for his friendly wolf.

In our brief session, we didn't cover Poultry 101 -- feeding raw chicken and turkey with bones.  I forgot even to suggest that some of the game birds he and his friends don't want for their own tables make perfect food for their dogs. That may require another session on Mike's Smartphone.

I am not sure why my pet food web site came up on his Smartphone, but his determination to find raw dehydrated meats for his dog on hunting trips and his obvious interest in feeding more rmb at home made the evening visit worthwhile for everyone.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Puppies Must Be Fed Raw-Meaty-Bones

Some months ago, I asked other dog breeders who feed raw-meaty-bones about diet requirements, if any, they impose on prospective puppy buyers.  The Yahoo group, rawbreeder, is a gold mine of information on what breeders around the world do, hope, think, and believe. 

I was fearful that telling prospective buyers they have to feed raw to qualify for one of my puppies would send them elsewhere.  Other raw breeders gave me courage, because they shared their successful experiences with requiring raw feeding for their puppies.  So, I wrote a puppy contract that requires puppy buyers to feed raw-meaty-bones and to refrain from feeding any commercial kibble or canned mush, or all health guarantees are null and void.  On my web site,, I posted lots of information about why and how to feed rmb.  And I held my breath.

Four puppy litters later, I can report total success with the rmb diet requirement.  First, many prospective puppy buyers contact me weeks or months before a puppy is available for them.  Early contact gives them time to read, question, discuss, and learn about rawfeeding.  Over repeated contacts, I can teach and demonstrate the advantages and ease of feeding rmb.

Second, as I have said many times in this blog,  learning to feed raw requires more unlearning of past advice about what to feed pets than learning anything difficult about feeding rmb.  Feeding raw chicken legs and meaty beef bones to puppies is easy; feeling it's okay to feed puppies raw meat and bones is hard.  By hanging out and watching me feed the older dogs, looking at their beautiful teeth and shiny coats, and seeing young puppies munch through chicken necks and wings cements their understanding.

Lastly, many prospective puppy buyers have lost dogs to chronic diseases -- notably cancers, liver, and kidney disorders.  Earlier, their dogs had chronic or repeated problems with allergies and intestinal problems.  It dawns on them that commercial pet foods contributed to these problems and that feeding dogs/wolves the diet they evolved to eat may prevent these chronic ailments.  My dogs have none of these problems, as they can see.

Recently, several prospective puppy buyers have called me, because of what they read about rawfeeding on the Aloha Labradors web site.  They get in line for a puppy, because they are convinced about rawfeeding before we have met and before they have seen the dogs.  They searched for an answer to their questions about why their earlier pets had such sickly lives and found rmb.

More and more pet owners are questioning why their dogs suffer so many illnesses, which are symptomatically treated by vets.  Not only are they spending gobs of money to deal with cherished pets' disorders, they wonder why their companions have to suffer so much.  Some come to realize that commercial pet foods are a root cause.

I feel very good to be able to require prospective puppy buyers to feed a raw diet.  Most need education and support to carry it out, which I am happy to provide. 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dogs Gone Wild, What Do They Eat?

Owners commonly observe their cats stalking, catching, and consuming, or partially consuming, unwary rodents and birds.  Dog owners less often see their predators successfully complete a hunt, in part because suitable prey, such as rabbits and chickens, are less often found around the home.  If dogs could find foods on their own, what would they eat?

Around the world, people abandon dogs and leave them to their own devices to survive.  Many do not survive, of course.  Groups of domestic dogs that became feral dogs can be found around African villages, on the periphery of game reserves, in Costa Rican forests, and in Boston suburbs.  Feral dogs reproduce among themselves and sometimes recruit domestic dogs to join them.  They range over areas large enough to support their dietary needs -- some ranges as small as a village perimeter, other ranges as large as several square miles of game reserve.

Many studies have looked at feral dogs as competitors with wild carnivores for small game. Feral dogs compete with hyenas, wild dogs, jackals, coyotes, and wolves in various parts of the world.  As a subspecies of gray wolf, domestic dogs gone wild are effective predators, effective enough to reduce the food supply for wild canids.

Both incidental and deliberate assessments of feral dogs' diets show a preponderance of small mammals in their guts.  Feral dogs hunt and eat rodents, birds, chickens, rabbits, squirrels, and other local game.  Insects, amphibians, human garbage, nuts, and berries comprise a minority of feral dogs' diets.  No study reported that feral dogs' guts contained large amounts of starches.

If dogs have to feed themselves, they do what any good carnivore does: they hunt for suitable prey.  What does this fact imply for feeding your friendly, domestic wolf at home?  Surely, research on feral dogs does not suggest you should feed Fido commercial pet foods, heavy in cooked starches.  He needs a diet that approximates whole game -- raw-meaty bones.  If your dog could feed himself, he'd show you this is what he needs to stay healthy.