Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Importance of a Nutritional Analysis on Your Pet's Raw Food- Part 1

My thoughts on feeding dogs falls somewhere in between "eh just feed them chicken backs and  toss in some organs here and there and they'll be fine" and "you must have a PhD and full access to a state of the art laboratory." There are a few things that a raw food diet must contain in order for a dog to be reasonably healthy and not run into issues caused by inadequate or an over abundance of certain nutrients. Without an analysis on the raw food there is really no way of knowing whether or not these key areas are being met. So what are the key things you should be looking for in an analysis of raw dog food?

Protein and Fat: Ideally the calories a dog gets from protein should be about equal to the calories a dog gets from fat. Remember that each gram of fat has nine calories whereas each gram of protein has only 4 calories. When you are looking at a raw food analysis the fat percentage should always be slightly less than the protein percentage. 

An appropriate amount of fat is essential for cell health, brain function and eye health. Fat is also a dogs main energy source. Too much fat, however, can makes cell membranes brittle, sluggish and inefficient (especially those in the brain) and can make cell membranes prone to oxidation and premature aging. High levels of fat are also associated with early retinal degeneration, obesity and can cause a lack of important vitamins and minerals in a diet.

The importance of high quality protein in a dogs diet cannot be overstated!

Protein is made of amino acids, many of which are essential, meaning that these amino acids are not produced by the body, they must be eaten on a daily basis in order for the body to function properly. Protein is responsible for oxygenating blood, enzymes in proteins are responsible for digesting nutrients, proteins balance and regulate hormones, break down waste products and provides the building blocks for every tissue in your dogs body, including muscles, organs, skin, veins, arteries, brain tissue etc.

The balance of protein and fat in a raw food diet is extremely important and often does not get enough attention. The levels of protein and fat are the building blocks for a healthy diet and too much of one and not enough of the other can have serious health consequences for your pet.

In my next blog post I am going to look at the importance of calcium in a raw food diet.

For a high quality, affordable, hormone and steroid free raw diet for your pet, check out our store!
(Calgary, AB and area)

Monday, 16 January 2017

Raw Feeding Puppies

Bringing home a new puppy is both extremely exciting and intimidating even for the most experienced dog owners. We all get the same feelings of mild panic and apprehension that if we aren't perfect, this cute little ball of fluff with sharp, pointy teeth will just implode. Fortunately for us, puppies are actually pretty hardy and forgiving. I get a lot of questions regarding feeding puppies a raw food diet, so I figured I would clear up a few of the commonly asked questions here to try to ease some of our (perfectly natural!) worries and questions.

How much and how often should I feed my puppy? 
You should feed your puppy 3 times per day until they are 6 months old, at 6 months of age they are typically done the majority of their major growth and can start being fed twice a day. Start out by feeding your puppy 2-3% of their expected adult weight divided into 3 meals. For example if your puppy is going to weigh around 50 pounds, feed one pound per day divided into 3 meals. If you do not know how big your puppy is going to be, start with feeding 10% of their current body weight (for puppies under 5 months) and adjust according to body condition. You should be able to feel your puppies ribs with the palm of your hand but their hip bones should not be protruding. This is very important! It is so much healthier for your puppy to be a good weight (not too pudgy) while they are growing, overfeeding causes a lot of extra strain on a puppies' vulnerable, growing joints.

What should I feed my puppy?
The first week you bring your puppy home, ideally you can get a sample of what the breeder has been feeding and continue with that for the first week. It is a very big change for puppies when they first come home, not only is it mentally stressful (which in itself often causes digestive upset) there is also a lot of new environmental things (like different bacteria) for their body to adjust to. After the first week home and they are settled in, start with something fully ground and low fat, chicken meal is usually the best choice. Stick with feeding the same thing for several days and when you feel confident that they are having no digestive issues, start adding variety. Start slowly and build up to feeding a variety of proteins. Variety is very important when feeding a raw food diet in order to make sure your puppy is getting all the nutrition they need, feed at least 4 protein sources and ensure that at least 1/3 of their diet is red meat.

Can I feed my puppy bones?
Once your puppy is eating a variety of protein sources you can introduce meaty bones into their diet. Chicken backs are the best to start with as they are soft, have lots of meat on them and are a good shape to encourage a puppy to thoroughly chew. Once your puppy has mastered chicken backs you can add in other bones, being caeful not to feed too many bones at once or multiple meal in a row as this will cause constipation and an over abundance of calcium. If your puppy likes bones and you enjoy feeding bones, you can switch your puppy to a diet of half meaty bones and half raw meaty bone balancer when they are done teething (I suggest waiting until after teething as eating bones can be difficult if their gums are painful and/or they don't have many teeth.)

What supplements should I give my puppy?
I always suggest adding fish oil to a puppies diet (and continuing as an adult), essential fatty acids are an essential building block for brain, eye, skin and cell health as well as an anti inflammatory. Fish oils are far superior for dogs compared to a vegetable oil, as dogs have to convert vegetable oils in to a usable form and they end up losing a large portion of the omega fatty acids in this process. Fish oils also tend to be significantly higher in omega 3 fatty acids instead of omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 6 fatty acids are already plentiful in a raw food diet, especially if you are feeding chicken. Other than fish oil there aren't any supplements that are needed, as long as you are feeding a variety of proteins and balanced meals (our ground foods all contain appropriate amounts of meat, bones and organs.)

What treats should I give my puppy?
For training treats, use something that is soft and easy to break apart. Remember if you are doing a lot of training, you may need to cut back on their food a little. Also keep in mind that a lot of training treats can be pretty rich, if your puppy has an upset stomach, too many treats may be the culprit. For longer lasting treats you can use hard biscuit type treats and chews such as bully sticks. You can also fill and freeze kongs with their raw food portion to keep them entertained for a little while. knuckle bones can also provide a good amount of chewing exercise for a puppy, take the bone away and put it back in the freezer for future use after about 30 minutes of chewing.

If you have any questions, we are always here to help! Feel free to give us a call, send us an email or message us on facebook. Don't forget to take lots of pictures and enjoy your puppy!

For a high quality, affordable, hormone and steroid free raw diet for your pet, check out our store!
(Calgary, AB and area)

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

One Simple Step to a Healthier Dog

A healthy weight has been shown to increase a dog's life expectancy by an average of approximately 2 years! Two years may not sound like a lot, but if you think about it, that is the difference between your dog living to 12 years old instead of 10, or 14 instead of 12. I think most would agree that is pretty significant! Not only does keeping your dog a healthy weight increase their longevity it also goes a long ways to preventing many other health conditions as well. Obesity has been shown to increase the risk of insulin resistance, can lead to thyroid imbalance, it has been shown to cause negative effects on the kidneys and increase urinary incontinence. Obesity can have a profound effect of the respiratory system, it is an important risk factor for tracheal collapse in small dogs and has been shown to increase the effects of heatstroke in dogs. Obesity is also a major risk factor for orthopedic conditions in dogs. Studies have shown body weight to be a predisposing factor in humeral condylar fracture, cranial cruciate ligament rupture and intervertebral disc disease.

It really is a simple thing, that can go a really long ways to keeping your dog happy, healthy and living longer. So why aren't more people keeping their dogs at an ideal weight? An estimated 52% of dogs are overweight or obese. I think a lot of people don't see that their dogs are overweight. We are so used to seeing pudgy dogs, that it is the norm. The best way to tell if your dog is a healthy weight is to get your hands on them. You should be able to feel your dogs ribs with the PALM of your hand without pressing. What should you be feeling with the palm of your hand? If you make a fist with your one hand and rub the palm of your hand over your closed fist that is similar to what you should feel on your dogs ribcage. To ensure your dog is not too thin, there should not be a noticeable dip in between the two hip bones on your dogs lower back.

So what can you do if your dog is overweight? I suggest decreasing their daily food intake by about 10% until you feel they are at an ideal weight (ribs easily felt with your palm). Once they are at an ideal weight add 5% back to their diet and keep a close eye on them. The reason you don't add all 10% back to the diet is you are now feeding a little less dog and they will not require as many calories as before.

Overweight puppies are very, very common. While puppies do require quite a bit of extra food while they are growing, the same ideal weight does apply to them. You definitely should be able to feel ribs on a growing puppy and you may need to adjust the amount they are being fed almost daily to ensure they stay an ideal weight through growth spurts. Overweight puppies are at an incrased risk for developing hip dysplasia, panosteitis and several other very painful and limiting orthopedic conditions.

We all want our pets to live long, healthy lives and this may be one of the most important factors in achieving that. A healthy weight applies to all dogs, no matter what food they eat, their breed, activity level, lifestyle or structure.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Let's talk about poop! (What to look for to make sure your raw food diet is a good one)

I know everyone is super excited to read a blog about poop! But in all seriousness this is very important information for anyone feeding a raw food diet. As you can guess I am a huge advocate of raw food diets, I truly believe it is the best thing you can feed your pet, IF you are doing it right. It is easy to miss essential parts of a raw food diet, that unfortunately make raw feeding a nutritional disaster. I am not trying to scare you, but it is important to get it right or you will end up with a pet that has nutrition deficiencies. Taking a look at your dogs bowel movements is an easy place to start and can give you a lot of information about how good your raw food diet really is.

One of the most common things I hear from raw feeders is that their dogs poop is white and crumbly. While this is super easy to clean up, it is not a good thing. This is a solid indication that your dog is getting too much bone! The problem with too much bone is that number one, they are going to be getting too much calcium, which can interfere with the uptake of other important nutrients. The other problem with too much bone is that your dog is not likely getting enough MEAT. Dogs must have lean meat in their diet! Much of the nutrients that a raw food diet is supposed to provide comes from lean muscle meat. Dogs also need high levels of protein in order to maintain proper organ function, protein in large is provided by lean meat in the diet. So if your dog is having white, crumbly stools, decrease the amount of meaty bones and add more lean meat to the diet. If you are feeding a commercially prepared diet, make sure that there is no more than 50% carcass and/or necks in the blend. Carcasses and necks are often used in commercial raw food diets and are a great source of many nutrients but should only be about half of what is in a food to leave room for lean meat and organs.

Another common one I hear is that dog's stools are rather large and smelly, much like what you would see when feeding kibble. This is caused by too much fat. While fat is a very important source of energy and a building block for cells, too much can cause many issues such as pancreatitis, increased cell permeability and unhealthy weight gain to name a few. According to Steve Brown's nutritional database for an ancestral diet, calories from fat should be about half of the diet. It is important to note that one gram of fat is equal to 9 calories vs one gram of protein being equal to 4 calories. So when you are looking at an analysis of a raw food, the percentage of fat should be 1/2 to 2/3 the percentage of protein. If you have a higher percentage of fat than protein, your dog is getting WAY too many calories from fat. It is also important to note that fat does not provide vitamins and minerals, so if your dog is getting the majority of their calories from fat you are risking nutrition deficiency. If you don't have an analysis to reference for what you are feeding, a good rule of thumb is to be using meats that are 85% lean, this will provide a good balance of fat and lean muscle meat.

If your dog has dark, loose stool it is often caused by too much organ meat. Organs are an absolutely essential part of a raw food diet as they provide many vital nutrients. Typically the most nutrient dense organs that are common in a raw food diet are liver, kidney and spleen. These should not exceed 10% of the overall diet or you can cause hypervitaminosis (which is just a fancy way of saying that the dog is getting too many vitamins) this will cause digestive upset and an imbalance of nutrients. This symptom is typically less likely to be ignored as the other two as it is very apparent that something is wrong with the diet when dogs are getting too much organ meat.

The above are guidelines to help you identify where your raw food diet may be lacking or where it may have too much of something. Pay attention to these things, the reason we all feed a raw food diet is that we want what is best for our pets. Not all raw food diets are created equal and while it is not rocket science to feed a dog, you do have to ensure that you are providing the right components in the right amounts.

Kristi Malone

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Do dogs need carbohydrates?

Do dogs need carbohydrates? The short answer is no, they do not. The NRC states “the fact that dogs and cats do not require carbohydrates in the diets is usually immaterial because the nutrient content of most commercial foods includes at least a moderate level of this nutrient.” It's the equivalent of saying that humans do not require tree bark in their diet, however if it is prepared properly and fortified you could survive with a portion of your diet consisting of tree bark. We don't want our dogs to just survive off what they eat, we want them to thrive!

Dogs are carnivores, there is plenty of proof that they are descendants and very close relatives to wolves. Everything about them makes them a carnivore, designed to thrive off the nutrients provided by consuming animal fats, protein, bones and organs. Vegetable and plant matter need time to sit and ferment in the digestive system in order for their nutrients to be absorbed. Dogs have a very short digestive tract which food passes quickly through, this does not allow the proper digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. (Compare a dog's GI tract at 2 feet to a omnivore at 20 to 40 feet, or a herbivore at about 100 feet). They also do not produce the necessary amount of amylase to begin the break down of carbohydrate in the saliva which places great burden on the pancreas to produce large amounts amylase to break down carbohydrates. There is a reason feeding carbohydrates results in large, smelly stools. Listen to what your dog's body is telling you!

Lets start using some common sense when we feed our animals and utilize the system that they have, rather than fighting it by finding ways to feed them foods they were never designed to eat. 

For high quality raw food diets check out our website at 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Importance of Feeding Variety

Probably the best marketing sham pet food companies ever came up with is that it is harmful to switch your dog’s food. “Our food is balanced and complete and has everything your dog needs. Switching foods can make your pet sick and feeding table scraps will make them picky.” The unfortunate truth is that it is a self fulfilling prophecy. Feed your dog the same thing every day and you bet they will get sick if they eat something different. Feed them real food and they will likely start refusing their “balanced” nutrition pellets. This idea has created a loyal following that is uncanny. Unfortunately, it is not benefitting dogs and when one thinks about it logically, the idea of feeding any animal the exact same thing every day seems absurd! Could you imagine going into your doctor’s office and having them shame you for eating something other than your balanced human diet of one single food fortified with vitamins and minerals?

Every food has a slightly different nutrient profile. Even kibble which is designed to be relatively uniform when it comes to vitamins and minerals is going to have varying levels of nutrients and varying levels of bioavailability according to each individual dog. We should be striving to achieve a balance of nutrients for our pets over time through feeding a variety of foods that are all going to have different, varying levels of benefits. We should also be striving to achieve resilience through feeding a variety of foods. If you feed the exact same thing all of the time, the body reacts very poorly to new foods. Over time, many dogs will begin to build a sort of “immunity” to the foods that are eaten every day for an extended period of time in the form of allergies. Your pet’s immune system is based in their digestive system, creating a diverse, resilient system will only benefit the overall health of your dog.

No matter what you feed your pet and what your feeding beliefs are, your dog or cat will benefit from adding variety in their diet. If they are eating the same thing every day, start slow and build up to being able to introduce new foods. If you are a kibble feeder, switch brands every time you buy a new bag. Add in some fresh foods, feed healthy table scraps, try out some canned foods or dehydrated foods. For raw feeders, try to feed at least 4 different protein sources (including organ meats). At least one of your protein sources should be a red meat. Feed canned or dehydrated once in a while, include healthy left overs from your own meals. If you are doing home cooked, rotate your recipes, use different muscle meats as your base, include different types of organs, mix up how you cook the food, (pan fried, boiled, slow cooked etc).

The bottom line is that feeding variety just makes sense. We need to shift our thinking away from the idea that feeding just one food, is in any way beneficial. The benefits of using common sense when feeding our animals is huge! If you are new to thinking about what your dog is eating, take baby steps. Every small step in the right direction is of benefit to your best friend.

For high quality, affordable, hormone and steroid free raw diet for your pet, check out our store!
(Calgary, AB and area)