“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your Food.”
– Hippocrates 400 BC
How Your Dog’s Food Affects His Body
The purpose of food (in dogs, humans, or any other creature) is to keep the body’s systems working well. If a body’s systems are not working as they should, or if a body exhibits signs or symptoms of illness or disease, then we know that one or more systems are not working properly, because the body is lacking in something it needs, or it’s being exposed to something harmful. It’s common knowledge that most dogs nowadays get health problems at some point – seizures, bad breath, gas, bloating, abscesses, tumors and cancer, parasites, etc. It’s because they are malnourished and being fed toxins!
“What we put into our dogs’ bodies directly affects their health. Without proper nutrition, even the most genetically sound dogs will never reach their full potential.” – Jeannie (Jeanette) Thomason, VND
In order for food to keep a body healthy, it must contain the correct nutrients, in sufficient amounts, and in the correct form, in order for the body to be able to use those nutrients. Dogs are designed to eat raw, meaty bones that they can rip apart with their teeth. (See links below in the Resources section for articles discussing this.) Their bodies are not designed to handle carbohydrates (like grains). In the wild, wolves and other wild dog breeds do not eat cooked foods, grain, or vegetables. They eat the whole carcasses of a variety of animals, and pick out what they need and leave what they don’t.
In addition to nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fats, etc.), a body needs enzymes in order to digest the food. When fresh produce or meat sits out on the counter and spoils, the enzymes in the food are essentially digesting it while it sits there. So when we preserve food, we are seeking to slow down or stop the work of the enzymes and microbes on the food. The enzymes and microbes are a key ingredient to being able to digest and use all of the nutrients in the food, so we want to be careful not to destroy all of them. Without those, the food becomes less nutritious and not adequate for supporting a healthy body and healthy immune system. If you feed a dog the wrong kind of food for their species, or you give him food that is devoid of enzymes, then the enzymes he needs to try to digest the food are pulled from other parts of his body, robbing his organs of the enzymes they need to function properly and leading to organ disease and dysfunction.
Healthy food, on the flipside, contains all the nutrition and enzymes that the dog needs, and as a result, his body stays healthy and you have less need of antibiotics, chemical dewormers, heartworm medication, etc. (which are all harmful to the body). In addition, healthy food supports a healthy mind. Healthy dogs fed a species-appropriate diet do not have as many psychological or behavioral problems because they are getting the nutrition that their brain needs to function properly.
The Raw Diet
Puppies born to a healthy mom will be healthy. As with humans, good health begins in the gut. Heavily processed & cheap kibble may be at the root of many dog’s health issues, which is why we do not feed our mamas or babies kibble. Read our page Choosing Your Shiba’s Diet for more information on what we feed our dogs. Raw-feeding may seem overwhelming at first, but it really doesn’t have to be. There are many forms of raw food, including pre-made mixes, and even freeze-dried “kibble” forms if you’re not ready to “make your own at home.”
Here are some great articles to check out that explain the raw diet, why it’s better, and ideas for how to do it:
About Raw Feeding – Natural Reared Toy Aussies
Diet Guide for Domestic Dogs and Cats by Tom Lonsdale
Raw Dog Food: Homemade VS Store-Bought – Dogs Naturally Magazine
What To Look For When Choosing Commercial Raw Dog Food – Dogs Naturally Magazine
Yankee Shelties has a website that has a ton of good information about what you can give your dogs to keep them healthy:
Quality Canine Nutrition Doesn’t Have To Be Difficult – Yankee Shelties
Raw Dog Food Diet – Yankee Shelties
This page is so encouraging, reminding us that switching over to raw, even if it’s commercially prepared, is still so much better than kibble. Start with baby steps, and build up from there. 🙂
True Carnivore’s Feeding Calculator can help you figure out how much raw food to feed your dog each day.
Answers Pet Food’s feeding calculator can help you figure out what to feed your dog besides just straight meat/bones. I use the “Limited Ingredient Diet – STRAIGHT™ FORMULA” calculator (even though I don’t buy their food), and I just figure any combination of meat/organs/bones to count as their “Straight Formula” when figuring things out.
If left to themselves, dogs source raw meat from nature…
If cats and dogs roam free on a farm (as ours often do) they will always hunt mice and birds and moles to eat, and grass makes up a very small percentage of their diet (and they don’t even touch fresh vegetables in the garden). One of my dogs especially loves raw, whole eggs. He cracks them open himself and licks the insides out.
All of this shows us what dogs naturally want to eat and perhaps what is the best food for them.
Transitioning to Raw
If you want to transition to raw, you can do it cold turkey, or gradually. There are a ton of articles on the internet about this, just do a quick google search. 🙂
Ideas if you feel like you can’t afford raw:
- Raw bones – It’s Time to Get Your Puppy a Bone… And Here’s Why
- Raw, organic eggs.
The article from Dogs Naturally mentions organic raw eggs. Raw eggs are rich in glutathione (which is an antioxidant that strongly supports eye health). They actually help keep your dog free of worms, or so I’ve read.
Raw eggs from pastured chickens that live on grass are the best, since even “free range” eggs at the store come from chickens who spend all their days in huge, long hen houses. They might have access to outdoors (like for example, a little concrete platform sticking off the side of the building – for real!), but they stay mostly indoors, because that’s where their food is.
However, having said all of that, I think store bought eggs are still nutritious to some extent, and MUCH MUCH better than kibble!!
Joel Salatin, who is a champion of raising animals as healthily as possible, says that beef is better than chicken, if you’re eating something that’s not raised right. The reason is that beef cows usually spend at least a portion of their life on grass until the last few months when they’re fattened up on grain. So at least a portion of their life, they are eating what God intended them to eat, out in the fresh air where God intended them to be. With chickens, they are normally raised on GMO corn, and never see the light of day. So you can imagine how healthy their meat is – not very!
I know it is suggested that we should feed our pets a variety of meats, but I think they would do much better on just beef and eggs than they ever could on dried out store-bought kibble! Some holistic vets have seen animals do well on just a diet of raw chicken backs with no variation. My point is, if you can’t do variety, raw is still better than kibble!
- Healthy Supplements.
These will help boost your dog’s immune system, and don’t have to be super expensive.
Special Report “Is Your Raw Food Really Raw?” by Will Falconer, DVM
Let Food Be Their Medicine book by Kristin Clark
Work Wonders: Feed Your Dog Raw Meaty Bones book by Tom Lonsdale
Only Natural Pet “Easy Raw” dog food
We sometimes use this food for our dogs (or their Wholesome Homemade which is similar but lightly cooked instead of raw). Even though this does have synthetic vitamins, I still think it is way better than the dried kibble. It is not heated at high temperatures, and I contacted Only Natural Pet and they said none of their food goes through HPP (High Pressure Processing).