Monday, October 14, 2013

Why Some Breeders Feed Junk Food

It is hard for me to understand why some reputable dog breeders choose to feed their breeding stock a canine starvation diet of cooked, dry starches.  Obviously, they do not choose deliberately to malnourish beloved, valuable dogs, but that is the effect of veterinary misguidance and ignorance of canine evolution.  The following message is from a leading breeder in Australia:
I used to feed all my dogs the raw-meaty-bones diet.  I would buy beef mince and steak direct from the pet produce place who would mince the meat the day the cow was slaughtered. It was FRESH!!  The meat looked beautiful, nice and red and the dogs loved it.  (Breeder had a bad experience with bacteria in raw mince for pets, details of which will be skipped here.)

My vet told me to stop feeding fresh, pet-quality mince and to feed a top quality dry food and feed raw meaty bones/beef/mince that is of human grade.  Also to freeze, then thaw before feeding it to my dogs. Freezing it kills all the bacteria.  All my dogs are now fed this mixture.
Another issue we have here with a pure raw meaty bones diet is dogs becoming constipated.  (Feeding too much bone and too little organ and muscle meats can cause constipation.  Commercial raw minces in Australia often have too much bone, not enough meat.)

Nature is a lovely beast for the animals that nature created.  Nature is an awful beast for the animal that humanity created. This is my firm belief. 

Humanity created the Labrador against the will of nature so in order to maintain the breed, we as humans must continually intervene, otherwise many of the best of our breed would simply perish.
  • We as humans line breed. This is avoided in nature. (Actually, not true.  Wolves and dogs breeding is usually within a pack with a dominant male and female doing much of the successful breeding.)

  • We as humans help the bitch with the birth and care of a litter, meaning the chances of 100% of the puppies survival is rather high.  In nature, the bitch is on her own and nature will cull the weaker or sick in the litter.

  • We as humans help with the breeding. Some bitches will not accept a dog of OUR choosing. So we AI the bitch or use a stud master to aid in the breeding.

  • We worm and vaccinate puppies....again, against the will of nature.  Whatever nature throws at us, we find a cure, name it, Distemper, Parvovirus, worm burden, ticks, fleas, etc . --  we have a cure.

  • We as humans research into the diet of a dog and have come up with premium dry foods that are cooked and healthy for our dogs.

  • We have intervened so much that any decision to change diet back to nature or refusal to vaccinate, worm, or whatever, could mean the reduction or death of your breeding stock.

  • Raw meaty bones once a week is fine and good for the teeth.

 Where to begin...?  There are two issues to address: (1) contamination of raw meats; and (2) a faulty view of canine evolution.

  • On the first point, raw meats from cattle, wild animals, and poultry are very likely contaminated with bacteria after slaughter.  Some of this meat is contaminated with bacteria and parasites before slaughter. Hunted game can have parasites, such as worms.
  • You mentioned in passing the solution to this problem: Freezing.  Freezing meats at -12 degrees F for 48 hours cures these problems.  That is what we do with local grass-fed beef and any game brought to us.  Poultry arrives in Hawaii deeply frozen from the US mainland.
  • After deep freezing, the threat of these parasites is eliminated, I believe.  Of course, we worm our dogs as well.  I feel quite comfortable feeding our dogs a diet of raw-meaty-bones when meat is treated in this way.
On the second point, you are simply mistaken.  Yes, of course, we reduce puppy mortality and treat our beloved dogs for illnesses that could have proved fatal in the wild.  None of that speaks to the diet that canines and felines need to thrive.  
Genetic studies show that dogs are wolves, yesterday and today:  99.8% of genes in common

Some Northern breeds of dogs (e.g., Huskies, Malamutes, Samoyeds, Shibu Inus) are slightly more closely related to contemporary wolves than they are to contemporary dogs of other breeds.  This I find fascinating.  Main point, however, is that all contemporary breeds of dogs are classified as wolves, not as a separate species.

Subsistence is not the same as thriving.  Feral dogs, of which there are many packs in the world, have been studiedBoth feral dogs and wolves can subsist on garbage from human dumps, and they do, in many parts of the world.  Feral dogs and wolves hunt small animals as their preferred diet.  Analyses of the stomach contents of feral dogs and wolves show identical preferences for animal prey and scavenging for animal sources of food.  Dogs/wolves do not prefer to eat carbohydrates (e.g., grains, potatoes, vegetables)  which they have difficulty digesting.  They do not get optimal nutrition from anything but flesh, organs, and meaty bones.

Mince is an aberration of human invention.  Dogs/wolves need to chew their food to get gastric juices flowing and to begin the digestive process.  Chewing meats and gnawing meat off raw bones cleans their teeth.  
The only dogs to whom I feed mince are puppies under 5 weeks of age.  Mince with raw eggs and yogurt is a human attempt to supply  partially digested foods that mother dogs/wolves regurgitate for young puppies.  Some of our mothers actually regurgitate food for their puppies.  I watch them sit by the regurgitated mess with huge pride while the puppies hurry to eat their mother's vomit.  Don't tell me dogs are not wolves!

Phenotypic differences between contemporary dog breeds and wolves make it hard to recognize their genetic identity.  Most observable differences between dog breeds and wolves are trivial genetic differences that cause large differences in conformation.  Toy dogs, dwarfed dogs, and those with brachycephalic muzzles depend on single genes that stunt, dwarf, and smash their faces. 

Yet-to-be identified genes cause fear responses of domestic dogs to be delayed in a long juvenile period.  A long, fear-less period allows dogs, and not wolves, to become benign human companions.  Fear responses in wolves begin when their eyes open.  Puppies do not begin to fear people for several weeks after their eyes open, which allows us time to socialize them to comfortable human contact.  (Puppy mill puppies and feral kittens that are not socialized to people in this period, are famously fearful for life.)  My bet is these large differences in behavior rest on a very few genes that regulate timing in development.

Selective breeding to create and maintain breeds: Yes, we humans have artificially isolated sub-populations of dogs and limited gene flow between breeds, often to the detriment of dogs' health.  In the natural world of commensural dogs, who live off human hand-outs and throw-aways, gene pools overlap geographically, and there is gene flow across populations.   
Village dogs, the common canine around the world, are medium-sized, brown, short-coated and look pretty much the same everywhere except in extreme Arctic climates.  Breeders have taken this basic dog form and bred it to conform and perform to our preferences.  Because animal breeding is an ancient art, and genetic variation is available at many loci,  it did not take many generations to get quite startling differences in appearance and behavior among breeds.

None of this selective breeding was for DIET.  As studies have shown, both wolves and dogs can subsist on human garbage.  Commercial pet foods bear striking resemblance to discarded human waste: Old pizza crusts, mashed fruits and vegetables, thrown-away rice, and bits of stew -- look like kibble ingredients to me.  In fact, Saturday Night Live did an hilarious spoof of commercial pet foods as GARBAGE.
Why would one choose to feed a starchy diet to carnivorous pets?  

  •  Another answer is we believe that our companion animals will thrive on the same diet we eat.  A lot of thoughtful, conscientious pet owners want to cook for their pets and share their own good food with pets as family members.
With members of our local raw-pet-food co-op,  I have to persuade them that, while humans are omnivores who need a variety of whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruits, etc., their carnivorous pets need raw meats and meaty bones.  Emphasizing that dogs ARE wolves, which they already know from National Geographic and Discovery Channel TV, brings them to the realization they don't have to cook for their dogs and cats.  They can simply hand them hunks of raw meats and meaty bones. 
Changing one's thinking to accept the carnivorous nature of dogs and cats is the hardest part of feeding raw-meaty-bones.


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