What is the Raw Food Diet for Cats and Dogs?

The concept of raw diets for cats and dogs are not new. Before the introduction of McKibble and McCan, fooding human food bits to pets was part of the common kitchen routine. The philosophy behind a natural diet is simplicity. By natural we mean bio-appropriate and bio-available. A diet that fits our pets' true nutritional requirements. Simple raw animal protein, a small amount of minced bone for calcium and phosphates, natural non-synthetic minerals and vitamins, and a small amount of carbs specifically for your fur kids. These concepts "re-developed" themselves over the last 30 years due to the public awareness created by Dr. Billinghurst and Dr. Lonsdale, both international thought leaders in canine and feline nutrition.
Raw and Real Food for Cats and Dogs

Real and Raw Food for Cats and Dogs

The concept of raw diets for cats and dogs are not new. Before the introduction of kibble (McKibble and McCan) and other convenient commercial offerings, feeding human food bits to pets was part of the common kitchen routine. The philosophy behind a natural diet is simplicity. By natural, we mean bio-appropriate and bio-available. A diet that fits our pets’ true nutritional requirements. Simple raw animal protein, a small amount of minced bone for calcium and phosphates, natural non-synthetic minerals and vitamins through whole foods, and a small amount of carbs through fruits and veggies specifically for your fur kids. These concepts “re-developed” themselves over the last 30 years due to the public awareness created by Dr. Billinghurst and Dr. Lonsdale, both international thought leaders in canine and feline nutrition.

As a result, at Raw Food for Pets we combined all of the positive elements of the different approaches to create a well-balanced meal plan framework through the products and brands we stock, incorporating a little of the prey-model (whole meaty bones), and a little of the BARF (biologically appropriate raw or real food) concepts for canine and feline pet cuisine. You can read our view on the concept of Evolutionary Nutrition through Biologically species Raw Food for additional information. We believe there must be a balance in the overall dietary approach, and this balance typically materialize over the period of a month when feeding your fur kids. For this reason, we promote raw meaty bones as meal replacements, example, pork and venison bones for the adult and senior fur kids, and chicken necks and wings for the youngsters. We also promote mixing natural supplements such as raw frozen sardines into the meal plan, as these items supply natural essential fatty acids (EFA) and omega-3 and 6 to your fur kids. To round our approach off, we believe that natural supplements, such as prebiotics, probiotics, essential oils, and natural vitamin and minerals all contribute to the overall nutritional profile required by each individual fur kid.

To determine the amount of edible parts your fur kids can eat as part of a balanced nutritional meal plan, whether BARF, PMR, Frankenprey (more details below), reference the anatomy of a typical prey animal. These portions include muscle meat, soft edible bone, and digestive organs: all of which are vitally important for your fur kids to consume on a raw and real food diet. Our selected raw frozen formula meals are all produced based on these principles, and pre-packaged for your convenience, so that you don’t have get down into the grit of making it yourself.

The percentage of edible parts in most common prey animals are:

  • 10% Digestive organs (Digestive System)
  • 10% Edible bone (Skeletal System)
  • 80% Muscle meat (Muscular System)

In the typical raw food diet, pets will consume:

  • 5-10% Organs: liver and kidney (Digestive System)
  • 5-10% Compact Muscle Proteins: heart and tongue (Muscular System)
  • 50-60% Meaty Bones: chicken legs, bone-in breast meat, whole fish, etc. (Muscular System & Skeletal System)
  • The Remaining 20-40% Body Muscle: beef, pork shoulder and cushion, gizzards, eggs, green-tripe, etc. (Muscular System)

Meaty bones are primarily body muscle (about 60-70%), so your fur kids are still getting a large portion of muscle meat from the bones. Consuming soft bone in this manner is more natural for carnivores. While they are chewing on the tough raw meat, the soft bone underneath is being ground up into easy-to-swallow pieces.

What are the differences between PREY and BARF?

BARF

The most basic “raw” fooding option is that based on what is commonly known as the BARF diet – for those unfamiliar with this peculiar acronym, it stands for either “Bones and Raw Food Diet”, or “Biologically Appropriate Raw Diet”, depending on whom you ask. Although the idea of fooding dogs anything other than kibble was not a new idea at the time, the book published by Dr Billinghurst in 1993 called “Give Your Dog a Bone” certainly gave impetus to the idea of fooding as Mother Nature intended. It went back to basics and looked at fooding dogs what they were effectively designed to eat. According to Dr Billinghurst’s research, dogs are carnivores, vegetarians, scavengers, hunters and opportunists – so a diet of raw, meat, bones and offal was the ideal food for our companion canines, as this is what they would naturally eat in the wild – despite the fact that dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years.

In nature, many hunting animals tend to eat virtually all of their kill, including fur, and some stomach contents. This “whole carcass” method of feeding is not for the squeamish, or those who live in an apartment, but biologically and physiologically dogs have not changed a great deal over time, and are not sufficiently dissimilar to their present wild cousins so as to require a different diet just because they live in our homes rather than in the natural world around us. Some people however struggle to source the food suggested by Dr Billinghurst (his book favors pig carcasses and kangaroos!), ad this is why we created Raw Food for Pets.

Those who food their dogs and cats parts from a number of different animal sources will maintain that these supply all necessary proteins, minerals and vitamins, as well as promoting healthy teeth, gums, joints and digestion, and many thousands of dog owners still revere “Give Your Dog a Bone” as the bible for raw feeding.

Since the original publication of “Give Your Dog a Bone”, however, Dr Billinghurst has slightly revised his feeding model to include 20% crushed vegetable matter and fruit. It is the original absence of these additions which historically set the next method of fooding apart from the BARF diet.

PREY

Another major advocate of the raw diet, Dr Tom Lonsdale, in his book “Raw Meaty Bones” bases his diet on just those three words – raw, meaty, bones. Whilst not opposed to dogs eating fruit and vegetables, most of the people who follow this diet will agree that the benefits of digesting fruit and vegetables can be obtained from other sources, and recommend fooding a “whole prey diet” – which would include tripe and smaller animals containing pre-digested vegetable matter. Contrary to popular belief, Dr Lonsdale’s suggested diet contains up to a maximum of one third vegetation – much higher than the revised recommendation by Dr Billinghurst. The differences between these two feeding camps is therefore tiny, and often only exists in the minds of the supporters of each author.

The diet of wolves in the wild is regularly cited as an example to be followed by both those who feed BARF or raw meaty bones, and yet Dr David Mech (see: Wikipedia) (a recognized expert on wolves) has been quoted as saying wolves in fact are not strict carnivores, but carnivores that also eat omnivore foods, further blurring the definitions.

We believe that for a longer or shorter time, the species “dog” has been living in its own ecological niche and has become adapted to that niche. No matter what it started out as, and no matter when it stopped being a whatever else it was, the species “dog” is now a dog as far as we are concerned, a carnivores that can also eat omnivore foods.

The Supplemented BARF Diet

The third example of a raw diet is similar to a BARF or raw meaty bones diet but with added extras, such as supplements like coconut oil or turmeric. You could qualify our approach at Raw Food for Pets as “The Supplemented BARF Diet“. Dr Lonsdale does not recommend supplements, but Dr Billinghurst believes they are sometimes required. These days many raw feeders believe that the addition of these “extras” to the diet can only be beneficial to our pets – after all, we all want our pets to live long and healthy lives, thriving instead of just surviving, so why not food them other foods with known health benefits?

This subject, perhaps more than any other, is one which is argued about the most passionately on almost every raw feeding internet and social media site. People fall in to either of two camps – those that do add extras which can include vegetables and fruit that the animal may not normally eat in the wild, and those who do not – and each will argue the merits of their case until the internet explodes. Those against the addition of vegetables, for example, will argue that the dog does not nutritionally require anything other than meat, bones and offal (as fed by the BARF people) in order to thrive, and would not eat these if left to its own devices.

The arguments raised are usually based on the belief that dogs are strict carnivores, not vegetarians or even omnivores, and therefore have no need of the nutrients and vitamins found in fruit and veg; but as seen above, even the experts are unable to fully agree. The other side, those who do add carrots, kale, sweet potato and a wide range of other whole food ingredients to their dog’s diet, will argue that these are all excellent sources of additional nutrients and vitamins, with known heath boosting properties, so why would one not feed them to one’s dog, even if the dog would not normally eat them in the wild?

What about my feline kids?

For our cat lovers, or rather slaves, another model is currently gaining ground. This model is called the Frankenprey model, which is another variance of BARF and PMR. The Frankenprey model describes the process of creating a whole raw prey animal by using bones, meat, and organs from a variety of animals – like Frankenstein. In the wild, cats eat small birds, rodents, snakes, rabbits, etc. This creates a perfect meal where organs, bones, and muscle meats are in complete proportion. For those of us unwilling to hunt birds and mice for our carnivores (yet still desire to be raw feeders), we turn to Frankenprey.

The Frankenprey model follows a framework that define the ingredients as strict 80 / 10 / 5 / 5 guideline and most raw feeders will follow that over a week’s worth of meals instead of a day’s worth of meals. You’ll see this average weekly intake is more convenient and carries a smaller risk of contamination and vitamin / mineral overload; raw parts are thawed in bulk and fed as soon as possible. There must exist a balance; maybe not a perfect daily balance, but a balance nonetheless. 80% of weekly meals should contain muscle meat, 10% of weekly meals should be made of bones, 5% of weekly meals should be made of liver, and 5% of weekly meals should contain secreting organs like kidneys. This sums up to 100%.

As in any topic, there are proponents of the various methods who eschew all others as being inferior. Don’t let these well-meaning but sometimes overly-passionate folks intimidate or discourage you – all three fooding methods (and any combination there-of) are healthy, nutritious and far, far better for your cat than even the “best” commercially manufactured foods.

Which should you feed, BARF, PMR or Frankenprey?

There’s honestly no right or wrong answer, it’s just a matter of opinion. The main point most would agree is that you’re doing right by fooding your fur kids raw rather than McKibble and McCan. So why does raw matter – and what is it about this subject that inspires such passion in its advocates – be they prey feeders, the raw meaty bones brigade or the BARFers?

Despite the philosophical differences, the different factions will generally stand together against the one issue upon which they all agree – our dogs and cats should not be fed dried processed foods. That is not to say there are no quality dried foods available – but most will agree, where ever possible these should not be fed when a raw diet is a viable alternative.

Try out both and see what works best for you and your dog or cat, or a combination thereof, as we advocate. Personally, as we stated above, we like to feed a mixture of both, more closely aligned with the Supplemented BARF philosophy for dogs and Frankenprey for cats. BARF wins on the convenience factor, however Prey also has it’s benefits, which is why believe the middle road, a combination of both, is the golden road …

Why freeze the food?

Firstly, frozen food does not need any kind of preservative in order to keep it fresh. This means that there is no need to preserve the food in jelly or biscuit form: you can food your fur kids high-quality, fresh meat tailored to their nutritional needs. Frozen food also can contain plenty of natural meat juices and blood. While this may make some people squeamish, for our canine family members, it is a delicious treat. It is also one of the ways dogs in the wild would stay hydrated, so your fur kids will not need to gulp down litres of water every day.

As we stated above, our frozen meals are not cooked like most standard dog foods. Incorrectly cooking food removes a large amount of its nutrients, and alters the levels of others. This makes it blander and less healthy than frozen real raw pet cuisine, which is raw and so contains all the nutritional goodness of fresh meat in the wild.

Finally, working with frozen food is easier for you as the pet parent, guardian and / or slave. This is especially true if you are fooding your fur kids in accordance with biologically species appropriate food diets. Rather than planning out meals full of fresh meat, you can just food your fur kids a portion of frozen dog food. All you need to do is defrost or thaw it, and your dog’s or cat’s dinner is ready to eat, paw-licious!


Dr. Becker and Steve Brown on Raw Food Diet for Pets (Part 1)

Raw Meat Diet for Dogs and Cats

Dr Jim Euclid interviews Dr Tom Lonsdale

German Shepherd Dogs on Raw and Real Food

Nick Thompson Raw Food Lecture Finland September 2019. Part 3: Feeding for Balance

Raw Food Insights with Sylvia Hammarstrom


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