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    Beginner's Guide to Natural Diets

    Originally posted by ZenCat 04-21-2007 07:25 AM

    Thinking of trying a Raw or Home-cooked Diet?

    Great idea!

    Raw and home-cooked diets are a healthy alternative to commercial dog food. Whatever your reason for considering a switch to a homemade diet, whether raw or cooked, there are resources available to help you find the right choice.

    What is a natural diet?

    A natural diet is a diet using fresh species-appropriate ingredients, based on the dietary needs of wild canines. These diets are often based on the "whole prey model", as wild canines would hunt and feed upon other animals in the wild.

    As you are learning about the different ratios of nutrients needed to feed a healthy natural diet, it can help to visualize the diet you are trying to reproduce. Try to imagine a dog's diet as an animal. A prey animal (it would be unlikely, for example, for a dog to try to take down a lion).

    Most of the animal is made up of meat and bones. A prey animal in the wild is a lean animal - not fat and plump like those raised domestically for meat. The amount of meat to bone is ideally anywhere from 1:1 to 2:1 calciumhosphorus (that is: bone/eggshell:meat). If you need to visualize a specific 'animal' for the exercise, try using a rabbit perhaps.

    Then imagine the amount of organs compared to the bones. It is a much smaller percentage of the whole animal than the bones and meat.

    In the animal's stomach and intestines there will be things like grasses, herbs, berries, seeds etc. Grains would be unlikely, apart from some grass seeds in season. Lots of leafy green vegetable matter all pulped up. Again though, it is a smaller percentage than the amount of bones and meat, and also the organs.

    Now, visualize those three things making up the animal - meat/bones, organs, vegetable matter.

    Imagine the prey animal living in a natural environment. The diet it is eating is full of nutrients and trace elements and has good levels of omega 3's. The prey animal is also a whole animal and includes the things most people don't buy commercially such as eyes and brain etc (things higher in omega 3's). To emulate this, we can include things like kelp/alfalfa and flax/fish oil.

    In its stomach along with all those vegetables, it will also have some enzymes and bacteria. This is where things like probiotics (eg yogurt) can come into the picture.

    Do you have to feed them this every day? Do you have to make the whole animal in your dog's bowl every day? No. It would be ideal, and convenient, but not necessarily natural. A dog in the wild would not necessarily catch and eat a whole animal every day.

    Some days it may get the whole animal. Another day it may share in some meat/bones from a larger animal. Or it may feast on another part while someone else gets meat/bones. Overall however, while the balance may be over time rather than every day, the amounts of each type of food consumed are likely to stay similar to those found in a single animal. So, still think of the single animal, but perhaps 'cut it into bits' and feed it over a number of meals.

    Of course there are also other things 'outside' this basic visualization. Things like fish or eggs for example, that can still make up a part of the diet.

    Much of this text borrowed from Tracey's big picture

    Raw or Cooked?

    That is a personal choice. For homes with immuno-compromised individuals, or small children, or with dogs that may be immuno-compromised or otherwise "challenged" in some way, or those who are just too nervous to handle quantities of raw meat, cooked food might be your choice, as it is generally considered easier to digest. Home-cooked diets tend to recommend lightly cooking foods to preserve as many of the nutrients inherent in the foods as possible.

    It is recommended to always break down vegetable matter, though (with a blender, food processor, juicer, etc.) as they will be more easily assimilated in this state.

    Either way, the basic principles are the same. Build a prey animal.

    Resources and Recipes

    It is important that you purchase and read some (or all) of the most highly respected texts on natural diets. These diets have stood the test of time, many have been written by respected veterinarians and nutritionists, and are an excellent model to follow for those who may be anxious when starting out on a new natural diet. Many people who feed natural diets still reference their favorite books, even after they are firmly established in a feeding routine.

    The authors of these books, and many natural diet feeders, will differ in the finer details of natural diet feeding, but the basic principles are the same… a natural ratio of muscle meat to bone to organ meat. Some people feed vegetable matter, some exclude them. Ditto with supplements. Ditto with grains. That’s another reason to read a broad variety of material to see which diet plan makes the best sense to you.

    Some recommended reading from board members:

    Give your Dog a Bone by Dr. Ian Billinghurst
    Grow Your Pups With Bones, The BARF Diet, by Dr. Ian Billinghurst
    Raw Meaty Bones Promote Health by Tom Lonsdale
    Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats: The Ultimate Pet Diet by Kymythy Schultze.
    Raw Dog Food: Make It Easy for You and Your Dog by Carina Beth Macdonald
    Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats
    Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog by Wendy Volhard
    The Nature of Animal Healing - Martin Goldstein DVM

    More Questions?

    There are several threads “stickied” at the top of the Natural Diets forum, ranging from photographs of member’s dogs eating meals, to recipes, to lists of different meat and organ types commonly available.

    If you have more questions, feel free to ask!

    Originally posted by KrissyK79 08-22-2007 02:52 PM

    Here is a bunch of links that I share:

    Raw Fed Dogs

    Tracey's big picture

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