Many owners and breeders are today considering a more natural way to feed, and much has been said and written about the BARF diet (Bones and Raw Food). Certainly, if feeding in this manner fits in with your lifestyle, there is no better method for the health of your animals. Below is an article written by a top Bullmastiff breeder, Mrs Cath Ambler and with her kind permission, it has been recreated here.

“A Question asked by Many Dogs Owners”

WHY FEED A RAW DIET?

This article has been featured worldwide and translated into many languages, and has also featured in many of today’s top magazines.

That is a question you have to ask yourself, I did over 5 years ago now and the decision to feed naturally is the best I have made. I believe, and this is my opinion, that my dogs have never looked so good, been so healthy and are so happy and energetic.

Feeding naturally has become my biggest obsession. I truly believe in it and think that everyone no matter how tight of a budget or how busy they are can make a natural diet work for them. It may seem quite daunting at first, I know I thought I would never get the hang of it, there seems so much to remember and so many hang-ups to get over! but I was prepared to give it a go.

Firstly I did some research, I read books, I spoke to people who fed B.A.R.F, then I decided it was now or never, so off I go to the shops and came back armed with a food processor, lots of vegetables, off-cuts of meat and minced beef. At first I was only half committed and still fed a complete as the main part of their diet and every other meal was off-cuts of meat or a vegetable meal with minced beef!

The dogs knew exactly which one they preferred and more and more they would not eat the complete food which meant that they were not getting a balanced diet (not that they were anyway the way I was feeding them) so the time had come to bite the bullet and face up to my biggest fear……I would feed them raw chicken wings!

Now I can tell you that this was going against everything I thought I believed in, I was brought up with the misconception that you should never ever feed poultry bones, especially raw to a dog, but my bible (Give Your Dog A Bone – By Dr Ian Billinghurst) insisted it was the write thing to do. So armed with a First Aid Kit, bowl of water, salt and telephone with the vets number keyed in I fed my first meal of raw chicken wings to my beloved dogs! I felt sick, I was a nervous wreck – they loved them, they ate with such gusto and looked at me like I was wonderful – then I had to admit it was a good idea, so stage 2 had arrived!

Now I was starting to relax with the idea that raw (never cooked) chicken wings were a good idea, and formed the base of my dogs diet, they were now eating herbs, oils (olive, safflower, sesame seed or sunflower – all fresh from the bottle never used oil), cottage cheese, live yoghurt and eggs – shells and all! (a good source of natural calcium). Time to introduce other bones, boy was this diet getting easy, next I introduced lamb bones (raw never cooked), mainly breast of lamb and next with the ribs still attached, the dogs loved their new method of feeding, they were growing in confidence too, no longer did they pick up large pieces and swing it awkwardly around until they had chewed through it, they were now past masters, they were using their paws to eat, they would stand on it and rip and tear, not only exercising their jaws but their neck and leg muscles too!

I was feeling very confident now introducing allsorts – pigs trotters, oxtail, whatever I could get hold of at a reasonable price – liver, heart etc etc. The youngsters I must admit took more readily to it than the older dogs. I expect that this was because they had not been fed on complete for as long and their instincts were more intact. The 7 month old puppies I had knew, how to tear the meat well before the adults – life was looking good!! but just when you’re feeling just a little too confident, perhaps even cocky, him upstairs has a way of bringing you back down to earth with a bump just to remind you not to take things for granted!

My first lesson came by the way of my bitch “Bonnie” she was out in the garden one morning and it was obvious that she wanted to go to the loo but she couldn’t – she was constipated (nice subject!) well she kept trying and she was getting more and more distressed because she couldn’t go, I was getting upset and considering what to do when she started screaming and I mean screaming, all I could do was try to calm her down by stroking and talking to her, without too much detail she eventually passed the hardest stool I ever wish to see, my poor bitch suffered but soon forgot her experience but I learned a lesson I won’t forget BALANCE IS IMPORTANT.

I had got so carried away with how clever I was feeding raw bones that I had fed too many and not enough of the other foods. Balance with a raw diet is not and cannot be achieved in every single meal, what you are looking to achieve is a balance over a period of time – anything from 1 to 3 weeks. During this period to achieve the desired balance 60% of the diet should be raw meaty bones and 40% a mixture of the other foods of which vegetables should be fed at least once but no more than 3 times a week. Peace was once again restored – less bones and more meat and vegetables – I was now achieving a balance.

My dogs were now happy, full of life, content with their diet (and going to the loo). What I noticed was that they were utilizing the food they were eating much more than they were on a complete diet, which meant less poop and a better consistency and not smelly; in fact my dogs were no where near as smelly (wind). By putting the vegetables into the food processor to break them down they were able to get all the goodness out of them and so were not just passed through in chunks as they used to be. The reason for this I found was that dogs can’t digest whole fruit and vegetables because of the make-up of their cell walls (cellulose), but by eating fruit and vegetables that have been through a food processor can be digested as this has broken down the cellulose and is more like the vegetable matter partly digested in the stomach of the prey animal they would eat in the wild

Another lesson I learned was to balance the vegetables I used so as not to cause diarrhoea, rule of thumb is vegetables grown above ground are stool loosening and grown below ground are stool firming, but vegetables never to be used are onions as they are toxic to dogs, also avoid potatoes as these can aggravate joints

Finally I feel I have the balance right, my dogs eat raw meaty bones as 60% of their diet (not so many as to constipate them) and 40% of their diet is meat off-cuts including heart, liver (offal) etc.. and vegetables (balanced so as not to cause diarrhoea) and all sorts of extras e.g. cottage cheese, live yoghurt etc.. as I mentioned earlier. I also now use a vitamin/mineral supplement daily just to make sure in my mind that they truly are getting everything they need.

Great – the dogs are happy, they look good. If they start to put weight on I cut back on what I give them in a meal; if they lose weight I increase the size of their meals. The look of the dogs tells me what amount to feed.

The first six months pass and I’m quite happy with what I’m doing when disaster strikes! SKIN PROBLEMS like I have never had before, one of my dogs in particular broke out in wet eczema in a big way! What on earth was happening? He had never had this before so why now if this diet was so good? Surely it was supposed to be better for my dogs health? Panic time, off to the vets first to get him sorted, he reacted quickly to treatment and healed in super quick time, while this was happening I was asking questions again, why was this happening?

The answer I got was TOXINS some dogs react like this, because he had been fed on complete for along time toxins had built up in his body, and now he was being fed naturally with raw food he had to de-toxify himself, and it came out through his skin, it happened only once and he healed very quickly (I feel because of the raw diet), but it shook me and at first I admit I questioned if I was right to change to a raw diet! But once I had taken stock of the situation I realized that it was just another stage we were going through, and today over 5 years later I’m convinced it truly was the best decision I have ever made for my dogs, I have far more success situations than bad experiences and once you get used to the idea of feeding raw it doesn’t need to be all time consuming, I have fed feed 9 adults and a litter of puppies this way and it is no more trouble than feeding a complete once you are organized.

If you are feeding only 1 or 2 dogs all you will need is a little freezer space, enough to keep food for say a week, you can buy meat scraps (off-cuts) from your local butcher at a reasonable price if you explain you want a regular supply for your dog. Also he will probably give you a discount if you buy 2-3 hearts and a liver for example in one go (you can cut these up in meal size portions and freeze for when needed) or alternatively get a few friends together and buy in bulk or find some one else who already buys in bulk and buy from them!

When you shop for the families vegetables just buy extra for the dog, or check out the quick sale shelf in the supermarket for bargains (dogs don’t mind over ripe or slightly out of date fruit and vegetables) or ask the local shops/market if you can have the outside leaves they would normally throw away-and of cause the peelings you would normally throw away from your own fruit and vegetables you just put through the food processor, you can do this as and when you need to feed vegetables to your dog, or you can spend an hour preparing a batch and again putting in meal size portions and freeze. (note if freezing vegetables just freeze vegetable mix and add extra’s like oil, cottage cheese etc., once thawed ready to use).

Once you get into a routine its simple you spend a little time each week preparing meals then all you have to do is remember to take out of the freezer the night before the food you want for the next day SIMPLE!

So why do I feed a raw diet?

Because:

  1. My dogs are healthy.
  2. My dogs are happy and content.
  3. A nervous dogs temperament was turned around by feeding raw food (that’s a story for another time).
  4. I’m hopefully giving my dogs a longer, healthier life.

The stage I’m at right at this moment in time is I have just raised my third litter of naturally reared puppies from naturally fed parents (and they are great, ask anyone who has seen them!).

 

Some interesting and informative reading material is :-

 

Give Your Dog A Bone | By Dr Ian Billinghurst
Grow Your Pups With Bones | By Dr Ian Billinghurst
Food Pets Die For | By Ann N Martin

These books are available either through W. H. SMITHS or on the internet via www.amazon.co.uk

If anyone has any questions they would like to ask about raw diet, I will do my best to answer them either through the Bully News or privately if preferred, you can email me at :- cath@british-bullmastiffs.co.uk you can also visit my web site at :- www.british-bullmastiffs.co.uk

There, you will find links to information on raw diet.

I HOPE THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN FOOD FOR THOUGHT?