kinds of drugs and its side effects

Why Frankie won’t be BARFing

I like to be open minded. That’s why I gave Jim McBean at DoggyBytes a forum for his advocacy of raw feeding the other day. But I’m not convinced its benefits outweigh its risks and here’s why:

  • Dogs are no longer living in the wild. Yes, they are equipped for eating raw meat. So are we.  Just because we can doesn’t mean we have to — or even should. Because…
  • Most meat we buy today comes from animals that eat corn and other unhealthy feed and that are injected with hormones and chemicals (not to mentioned slaughtered in inhumane conditions). Just watch the movie Food Inc. — if you have the stomach for it. If a raw diet were to consist of meat that came from animals that were free-range, grass-fed and not subject to any growth hormones or other chemicals, great. But don’t tell me that feeding such meat every day wouldn’t be expensive.
  • The more raw food you eat, the greater your chances are of getting some that has harmful bacteria in it. I eat sushi. I eat steak tartare. But not every day because I worry about mercury. And because I’m not in France.
  • A dog with a compromised immune system, as Frankie’s is because he has diabetes, shouldn’t be taking the chance. Here’s what my pal Susanne Fritz wrote in response to Jim’s earlier comments:
  • I personally don’t give Jasmine raw bones for her teeth any more. I did for many years, and they did the job, but they also gave her the occasional stomach upset. Then a couple months after she was diagnosed with diabetes I gave Jasmine a big juicy bone as a treat just before Christmas. I consequently spent an expensive Christmas eve at the vets because she had been vomiting frequently, had diarrhea, and wasn’t eating (not good in a diabetic dog). The gastrointestinal bug was traced back to the bone, Jasmine got a couple of weeks of antibiotics, and my pet insurance company got yet another big bill (phew!). Since then bones have been off limits, and I have found Jas’s teeth have done fairly well feeding her a largely dry food diet.

  • Because the alternative to feeding raw is not always feeding commercial kibble. A false dichotomy is posed by raw food advocates. There are other alternatives to feeding raw than supermarket brands. I feed Frankie Wellness Core topped with cooked lean beef or chicken.
  • Because BARF (Bones and Raw Food) is a ridiculous acronym and the name for the website is even worse: Barfworld. I’d be embarrassed to feed my dog a puke-referencing diet. If I were to come up with a raw diet, I would call it BARC: Bones and Raw Comestibles, a dining plan that has a far better, and vocabulary enhancing, acronym.

Update: As it happens, my Aussie pal Susanne Fritz, who is quoted above, came up with a far more scientific — and far less childish than “because it uses the word ‘barf'” — contribution than mine to the raw food debate, which she sent to the “pro” post. As you’ll see, she is not opposed to raw feeding; she just urges people to use caution. I’m including it here:

A word of caution – dogs have evolved as omnivores and to state they are meant to be solely carnivorous is incorrect. “Dogs are opportunistic eaters and have developed anatomic and physiologic characteristics that permit digestion and usage of a varied diet.” Source: Hand, M. and Novotny, B. (2002) Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition. Dogs require a diet that in addition to protein and fat includes a carbohydrate source, some fibre, and nutrients that they will not get eating meat alone. Wolves achieve this through eating the stomach contents of the herbivores they kill, and it has been documented that this is one of the first parts of the kill they will devour. In times when prey is scarce wolves also eat seeds and berries to supplement their diet.

It is possible to feed a domestic dog a vegetarian diet as long as it contains the appropriate levels of protein, carbohydrates and other nutrients to meet the dog’s daily metabolic energy requirements…. And there is nothing wrong with feeding your pet dog on a diet of raw foods you put together yourself at home as long as it meets all the dog’s nutritional needs i.e. contains enough protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber etc. A vet could give you suggestions on how to achieve this, or an animal nutritionist could also provide feeding plans. The area where care needs to be used if doing this is when substituting ingredients from the recommended diet plan, say due to a listed ingredient being unavailable, or deciding to use other ingredients because they are cheaper etc. This can result in nutritional deficiencies, which over time can cause health problems.

Sorry to get academic on you, but I had to clarify the dog – carnivore issue as it is a common misconception and can result in a sick pup in the long term. There are many excellent texts available, including the one I mentioned already, or the likes of “Animal Nutrition” by Mc Donald, Edwards, Greenhalgh and Morgan – a more technical text that goes into calculating daily metabolic energy requirements to develop appropriate diets for a variety of domestic animals (lots of boring calculations and such, but if you are into that sort of thing it’s a great book). I have a feeling what I have said is going to rile some people up so I’ll throw some qualifications out there to back up what I said (at the risk of being all academic yet again)

Susanne Fritz B. Science (Biology) B. Arts (Science Communication) Grad Cert Food Science There you have it – the science geek has been outed! 😉

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18 Comments

  1. Posted January 21, 2010 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    While I don’t agree with your other reasons, the fact that Frankie has health is DEFINITELY a good reason to stay away from raw. Just not worth the risk!
    Had to laugh at the BARF comment – you’re so right! What were they thinking?!

    • Edie
      Posted January 21, 2010 at 7:16 am | Permalink

      Glad you got a laugh — and would agree about Frankie. Just curious: Why do you think the other reasons aren’t valid?

  2. wvterry
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    I know I’m not ready to switch to raw. It’s hard to know what’s the best dry food to feed. I feed my dogs Holistic Select. I like that there’s no corn or wheat. Sally gets puppy formula and older dog Siggie the Salmon, anchovy, and white fish. Does this sound ok?

    • Edie
      Posted January 21, 2010 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      I can’t say which products are good for a particular dog — and I’m not familiar with the Holistic Select brand — but the fact that there’s no corn or wheat is definitely a plus. All that fish sounds beneficial too. I’ve got to run out — to walk Frankie — but later I’ll post a link to a good source for reading dog food labels. The Whole Dog Journal always does excellent annual ratings of dog food, too.

  3. Posted January 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Very funny but serious post, and loved the input from the science geek–that’s the problem in general with promoting a particular kind of feeding regimen unless you’ve got an expert in the field to provide the current science, as your friend Susanne has. And in an easily digestible fashion, I might add!

    I’ve got ten recipes for home feeding that I wanted to share with readers, but nutrition is so particularized I wanted to pass them through a vet nutritionist before offering to readers-and *that* turns out to be really expensive! After spending a lot of time trying to find one who would give me the time of day with such a small request, I finally got a quote–unfortunately, I can’t afford a $500 giveaway!

    Love your “Comestibles” suggestion, and laughed at your reference to avoiding such delights in the horse meat eating country of France!!

    As you mentioned, food safety is a real problem and I would add that Monsanto’s genetically modified corn being fed to livestock seems to be in trouble with human health concerns resulting. It’s like a mad science experiment that should be very far removed from reality. To eat the proceeds from that is to eat the problems and bad practices of today’s commercial farming methods. Marion Nestle’s books are a great reference for this.

    • Edie
      Posted January 21, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      Glad you liked the post, Mary. It’s funny that you interpreted my allusion to France as a reference to horse-eating; I simply meant that it’s hard to find steak tartare on U.S. menus (though one place in Tucson serves it)!

      Yes, Monsanto is scary — and Marion Nestle’s books, including the Chihuahua in the Coal Mine, are excellent. Food Inc also highlights the Monsanto problem in great and frightening detail.

      I think I’ll do more food posts, especially one about reading labels, so people can know that all kibble isn’t created equal.

  4. Posted January 21, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I have two english labs (brown female 3 yrs and black male 4 yrs)
    They have been on a raw diet for 18 months now. 90% of their health problems went away with in 8 weeks of the change. I was a skeptic big time–but the suggestion came from someone who I knew was trust worthy–so I gave it a shot.

    The biggest changes were in the allergy.skin area, but weight control is easy and they have the frolic back in their play!

    Best regards, Karen

    • Edie
      Posted January 21, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      Karen, I’m glad the raw diet worked for your labs; it does for many, many dogs. Since I presented the raw advocates side earlier this week, I figured I’d post an alternate point of view (mine!)

  5. Posted January 21, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Each person has to make their own choices with their dogs. For me, I switched to RAW because it makes sense. My dogs got occasional digestive upset on kibble, so I don’t think some digestive upset in RAW would be too uncommon as well. I’ve spent well over $3,000 on my mini dachshund teeth cleaning AND removal. He has 1/2 his teeth left. The RAW chicken wings keep his mouth clean now and his foul breath is a thing of the past. Clean mouth means his insides aren’t getting bad stuff in his blood or other organs. While it may not be for everyone, my dogs are enjoying it and I feel I have more control over what they eat than what some food company tells me is supposed to be in the bag – remember, they can lie all they want to in marketing their foods and they are notorious for switching ingredients due to costs. I would disagree on the compromised immune system being a reason not to feed RAW. That is when a dog needs the best nutrition and RAW would work best for them. And there are options like Stella & Chewy’s that is pre-made and pathogen free! Check them out online at http://www.stellaandchewys.com. You will not get all the benefits of RAW since you do need to get the RAW meaty bones with them….but that def. would be a more trusting route. Don’t forget, kibble has been recalled numerous times for pathogen issues! Kibble does not equal safer. Even chew bones and treats have been recalled for pathogens! Fortify the immune system of the dog with prebiotics and probiotics. That would be the best route over stopping RAW for one bad bone. As a point of reference for costs – I’m spending up to $120 a month on RAW since I don’t have a big freezer in order to buy in bulk. However, the chicken quarters are less than 80 cents a lb. The ground beef and chicken wings are less than $1.85 a lb. Chicken livers are nominal in costs. For kibble and chew treats I spent around $65 a month of a bag of grain-free kibble and up to $ 60 on chew treats. Guess what? I hardly buy any chew treats – why? Because they chew on bones for breakfast and dinner! They get lamb trachea as an occasional snack. It really doesn’t cost me anymore to control their diet with RAW and provide them with the chewing experience they want and need. When I was just starting with pre-mades RAW, it cost me more…but I needed to feel comfortable with my choices….now I have progressed to the do it yourself. It really is VERY EASY to do. Just be sensible with raw food, just like you are when you touch raw food that you cook for yourself. I do respect your choices and best to your little one! I love your banner photo!

    • Edie
      Posted January 21, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your detailed comment. I’ve got to admit when you say you feed your mini-dachsund a raw diet that makes it sound more appealing to me; most people who promote raw feeding seem to have big, macho dogs ;-).

      You’re right about kibble, and the Merrick recall really threw me for a loop. That’s one of the “good” brands. The feed/pet store that I frequent sells Stella & Chewys. I may check it out. Who knows; I could end up being a convert yet. Sending greetings to and saying flattering things about my dog is always a way to win me over…

      P.S. Just checked and realized I’ve been giving Frankie Stella & Chewys Carnivore Kisses as treats for a long time now. Very pricey, but I got the last two jars at a 2-for-1 sale at my local store so felt like I was getting a huge bargain (at ony $5.50 a jar).

  6. Rebecca Boren
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    It isn’t just compromised canine immune systems that are a potential issue with a raw-food dog diet — humans with dicey immune systems are also at risk. At another risk — that of being too graphic for some gentle readers– I will note that dogs do not usually get sick from eating salmonella or some other charming pathogen. They pass it straight through their digestive tracks, and out where it can infect the unwary human through poor pooping scoopping practices or accidents I will not detail here. I am equally wary of passing out raw poultry to my pups — salmonella infection rates are soooooo high in mass-produced chickens and their kin. I know that the first thing my dogs do with something yummy to eat is to go enjoy is somewhere difficult, if not impossible, to sterilize.
    On the other side, it is only common sense to expect that dogs fed nothing but kibble will develop health problems. (How do you think you would do on all corn flakes, all the time?)I don’t have the scientific credentials of some bloggers here, but when doing rescue, I found that a sorts of canine skin problems cleared up as soon as I fed my rescues a mix of high-quality kibble and as much cooked food as I could afford.
    So that’s what I feed my own dogs now — about half the best kibble I can buy, and about half cooked meat with vegetables and sometimes apples (being careful to avoid all seeds in the fruit). I only wish I had enough confidence in the safety of the food supply to give them raw, meaty bones to chew on, too!

    • Edie
      Posted January 21, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      Very true; I didn’t even think of the human danger side of the equation. I tend not to worry about touching raw meat — I often do it when I divide Frankie’s meat into little packets to freeze — but of course my immune system isn’t compromised as yours is.

      It’s hard to underestimate the complexity of this issue — but it’s heartening to know that everyone who has commented is working in good faith to do right by their dogs.

  7. Posted January 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Hey Edie – yeah those Carnivore kisses are good! Dogs love them – have you seen their video on their website? It is really an interesting story on how they started. I do have a GSD and a Norwegian Buhund mix – small, medium and large in the family 🙂 My little Louis is almost 14 years old! I forgot to mention that I had 3 dogs when I mentioned cost – I thought about that in the car a moment ago! $120 would be a HUGE amount for Louis, our mini dachshund! Frankie is just too adorable and I do think you chose the right picture for the theme – his picture makes you want to just pick him up and give him a big kiss on the forehead.

    Tom Lindsale, a vet in Australia has a book called Raw Meaty Bones. It is a great read – http://www.rawmeatybones.com. Jim recommended it to me.

    Even humans with compromised immune systems can feed Raw – just like those with compromised systems can have cats. They just have to be very sensible about handling, cleaning up afterwards and where you feed. Mine have their own towels they eat on and those towels get sterilized in the wash! I do understand the concern though. I’m constantly wiping up the counters, door handles and every place I think I might have touched. Of course I try to remember that I don’t do that in all the public places I go and I don’t even want to think about that! LOL

    Rebecca – thanks for all you do for the dogs! There is a lady I talk to on a GSD forum that just rescued a GSD mom and her 8 puppies! they were at a high kill animal shelter. The mom was so happy looking knowing she and her pups were going to be safe.

    Have a great new year everyone!

  8. cyndicat
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had my 8-year old wire foxie on the BARF diet for three months. She gets chicken wings and/or necks in the morning and then the BARF prepared food for dinner or a meaty lamb or beef bone. Inbetween she enjoys small snacks of raw veg, fruit and linseed biscuits. I do have some ‘holistic’ kibble (duck and rice) for emergencies.

    We switched to BARF because she had ear and skin problems, both of which have disappeared since (well, the ears took a bit more attention, but both clear now). She loves the bones and I don’t worry about salmonella etc as the bones are frozen and thawed when needed and the big ones tossed out when she’s done chawing. Her teeth are fantastic.

    On the BARF acronym: the Vet who established the regime is Australian and down under we tend to refer to ‘barfing’ as ‘chucking’, ‘chundering’ or having a ‘technicolour yawn’!

  9. Posted January 21, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Would you consider the dehydrated raw food diet from The Honest Kitchen? It could be the compromise you’re looking for. Not to self-promote, but I have a guest post up at DoggyBytes (http://doggybytes.ca/switch-kibble-raw/2392/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DoggyBytes+%28Doggy+Bytes%29&utm_content=Google+Reader) on our experience – and referencing it keeps this from being a long comment 🙂

  10. Posted January 21, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    DON’T even get me started on the Food Inc doc, it was one scary show! Since I’m semi-involved in the farming industry, I’ve been very aware of Monsanto and their world domination ways. They are one evil company and I especially despise their lobbying against the labeling of GMO foods. If more people actually knew that their food was modified with all kinds of wacky genes, they might make different choices.

    As for feeding Frankie, there is no right or wrong way. Since Frankie is immunocompromised, feeding raw probably isn’t the best choice. There are a lot of good kibbles out there and raw isn’t the only way. I feed Jersey Sojos raw veggie mix and I cook her meat. I do feed her raw beef bones from time to time and she loves it. I’m just not sold on feeding her raw meat all the time, call me a Nervous Nellie, but I don’t want Jersey getting since from Salomnella.

    And you should move to Canada so you can get good, wholesome beef. Bovine growth hormone is BANNED here and I’m happy for that. The US is the largest user of BGH no surprise since Monsanto headquarters in the the US.

  11. Posted January 21, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    FWIW, I have heard that the “wolves eat stomach contents” is disputed. There has been some evidence in both directions that they do not, in fact, eat stomach contents of ruminant animals.

    In any case, I feed my dogs raw (and unless you are speaking about Dr. Billinghurst’s particular model of raw feeding, it’s raw feeding and not “BARF” anymore). I feed them raw because for us, it’s a good option in terms of bioavailability of nutrients, ease of delivery, etc. I have large dogs, one who used to have chronic UTIs and the other who has been in renal failure since he was a puppy (we adopted him when he was about 1 year old, unaware of his issue). The one major benefit of feeding my dogs raw is the moisture content of the food. Raw food has a higher water content and for a dog with bad kidneys and another dog with questionable urinary tract, water is great. I do not feed prey model, however. Because my renal dog requires a low phosphorus diet, he gets moderate protein from easily digestible sources (such as egg) and because he cannot have bone or tons of high phosphorus foods (like organ meat), he gets vegetables (cooked and/or blended) and a carb such as sweet potato. I add yogurt, probiotics, and other renal supportive supplements as well as a phosphorus binder which also provides extra calcium.

    Anyway, for my situation, raw feeding was good. However, you have to be comfortable feeding your pet and if you’re not comfortable feeding a raw diet, you shouldn’t do it. There are great alternatives available, such as home cooking and high quality commercial diets.

    • Edie
      Posted January 22, 2010 at 6:47 am | Permalink

      That’s what I get for going out to dinner and shutting down my computer. I came back on line this morning to find all kinds of great comments that I wish I had time to address at the length they deserve (and in the format; when I revamp my blog – yes, that’s still in the works — I’ll have a threading device).

      Anyway, I’m glad raw feeding has worked for so many and maybe somewhere down the line I’ll tinker with Frankie’s diet again, but for now, I’m satisfied with the kibble/cooked meat & veggie mix I’ve devised. It’s not like I haven’t been putting in the time. At one point I was slow cooking tepary beans from the Tohono O’odham reservation because of their high fiber and protein content, proven to reverse diabetes in humans (then I discovered canine diabetes is type 1 and therefore not reversible). I also appreciate that the commenters here are respectful of others’ decisions. I gotta say that I’ve got a high-quality group of visitors to this blog!

      Rod, when Frankie was first diagnosed I took him to a holistic vet who gave us a sample of dehydrated raw food. Not only did it take longer than usual to feed Frankie — he was tapping his little paws waiting for it to reconstitute — but when the food finally reached the floor (in his bowl, of course), he refused to eat it. As one vet said, Frankie is a funny dog (and she didn’t mean that in a ha, ha way). You never know what he will or won’t like. But I really liked your post over at DoggieBytes and suggest everyone else go read it too!

      Karen (aka Bloggie Stylish), I would move to Canada in a minute for the health care — as well as the better food control — if it wasn’t so friggin cold there. I had enough winters in the northeast to last a lifetime.

      Cyndicat, Thank you, thank you for explaining why Ian Billinghurst didn’t have a problem with the BARF acronym!! I love the term “technicolour yawn” and will go on a personal campaign to try to make it catch on here.

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