The reality is that conventional MDs (Medical Doctors) get around 25 hours of education in nutrition in their entire 4 plus years of medical training, and research is consistently showing the important role that food plays in our overall health. Drug companies are consistently lobbying MDs and hospitals to increase the usage of their drugs to treat the symptoms of our problems instead of the root causes of disease.
Over the last 20 plus years I’ve come to realize that the majority of us have no real clue how important our day to day food choices are. I began to learn about this epidemic of ignorance when I first volunteered at my local small-town food co-op at the age of 16, and when I began to work in a big city food co-op at the age of 21. I learned an incredible amount about holistic health. After 20 years or so of researching health and wellness issues and using my own body as my laboratory, it has become obvious that what I put in my mouth affects me more then any other choice that I make on a day to day basis.
My basic “Wellness Rule of Thumb” is this: About 75% of our health come from what we put in our mouths, and the remainder coming from how we exercise, our genetics, and our environment. No matter what, the biggest contributing factor to our continuing health is what we decide to eat, day in and day out. This is also true of our attitude — how we decide to feel on a day to day basis affects our overall health picture. Each small choice enhances or detracts from our health.
Medical doctors have tons of expertise and information, but at the end of the day they are, in general, just not that educated on basic nutrition and cutting edge food research unless they happen to take an interest in that area of knowledge. As the only owner of our own bodies, we have complete autonomy over them, and we should listen to the experts but we should also become aware of what our own bodies need. When we learn more about the power of food, we need to apply that knowledge to the food that we eat and the choices that we make. A doctor has no power over our day to day choices for the most part, and that is why they tend to focus on treating the symptoms of our illness with drugs. Those mechanistic reactions are the things they can control, whereas we, as the owners of our bodies, have the responsibility to look at he big picture and see patterns across the arc of our lives and act in that framework.
Not only do we have that responsibilities for ourselves, we have that responsibility for our pets.
Dogs are amazing. They do so much for humans, and yet they expect so little in return. As dog owners, our responsibility is to provide the best home, food, and care that we can give to our pets. Even considering them “pets” is foreign to some of us who have dogs that are more members of our family then anything else.
Cats I can take or leave (just kidding, catlovers!). They don’t care about much of anything except themselves and how cute they are — like Instagram models with hairballs. But dogs give everything they have every day and they never expect anything, except the occasional pat on the head and a stick thrown for them. Okay fine — cats are amazing at killing rodents, I give them that.
A while ago my girlfriend’s dog Venom was diagnosed with bone cancer. He was an 8 to 10 year old Rottweiler (he was a rescue dog so his exact age was unknown) with an incredibly friendly disposition. He had a troubled upbringing before landing with my girlfriend, with whom he spent the majority of his later life with. Over the past year or so I had also grown to love him, and the cancer diagnosis was grim news the day after we took him in for a some x-rays.
Their hadn’t been any previous sign of cancer, and all his vet visits gave him a clean bill of health. A few weeks prior to our last vet visit, Venom had stumbled as he got into the car, and afterwards he limped and hobbled around on his back left leg, definitely in some pain, so we scheduled the vet visit to figure out what was going on. We were also feeling bumps that seemed to be getting larger under his skin, around his chest and leg.
The vet told us there was a remote chance it was cancer but most likely it was a fracture or sprain of some sort. It turned out there was a fracture, but there was more. The x-rays confirmed that cancer had spread around his joint, eating away at the bone which was why a stumble could fracture his leg bone so easily.
There was very little chance the bone would ever heal infected with that cancer. The vet informed us that if the cancer hadn’t spread, we could choose to amputate the leg and possibly give him year or so more of life. There’s a thriving group of three-legged dogs out there with their own websites and everything. But if the cancer had spread, then there was very little that we could do other then euthanize Venom. We did not want to do that.
I’ve always been a huge proponent of natural and alternative healing methods. I felt that there had to be alternative treatments that we could try for Venom, therapies that we could put him on so that we wouldn’t lose him to this disease. I didn’t believe it was all that cut and dried, and vowed to find out how to beat this cancer.
I was really angry at cancer. After heart disease, cancer claims the most lives, including the lives of some of my own friends and family. I didn’t want to lose another to this disease.
One thing I do know with certainty is that a positive outlook will extend lives beyond the projected mortality rate.
In general dogs have the best attitude in the world, but Venom’s attitude was slowly degenerating into a haze of irritation and pain. In the long run we didn’t want his last days to be miserable.
Before we could decide on amputation, we brought him in for more tests at the U of M in St. Paul, MN. He was such a good boy on the trip, but now my girlfriend and I had to physically carry him out of he back seat of our car and walk slowly with him to the hospital. At the U of M, we found out that the cancer had spread to his lungs and maybe to other areas. The doctor showed us metastasis in his chest and lungs and we felt crushed. The doctor told us that we could go ahead and amputate the fractured leg, but it would probably still only be a matter of weeks before Venom would die from the metastasis to his lungs and hear, and his other legs most likely had arthritis, so it would be painful for him to walk and carry out his business on three legs.
As we drove home we sat shocked and tired and tried to figure out what we should do next.
Back at home, I found a documentary on Netflix called Pet Fooled. I watched it and then I had my girlfriend watch it with me. It opened my eyes to the carelessness and overt marketing of the pet food industry, and made me realize how little thought I had put into our pet’s health, which was remarkable considering how much thought and energy I put into my own. In general, I realized most pet food owners like myself who feed kibble are basically feeding our animals Doritos for every meal and expecting them to be healthy. A basic kibble diet is junk food, even with extensive claims on the packaging that states otherwise.
There are two basic premises explored in the movie. The primary one is that our pets, whether cat or dog, are healthiest on a primarily fresh meat-based diet. Evolution has honed cats and dogs into meat-eating machines of efficiency. A cat is an obligate carnivore, meaning it needs meat to stay alive. A dog is a carnivore as well, but can also can survive for long periods of time on any scavenged foods. This quality in a dog’s physiology allows us to feed them a subpar diet for years and years
It is hard for me to wrap my head around why a veterinarian wouldn’t immediately agree with this, as it is seemingly blindingly obvious. But what I didn’t realize immediately is the degree of indoctrination that the powerful agencies behind the pet food industry wield on conventional doctors.
Kibble was invented to make feeding our pets easier and more convenient We all gravitate toward convenience, and kibble has become the primary method most people feed their pets, with increasing health issues as a result.
You can easily see this with human animals as well. Most of us love the convenience of prepackaged tasty foods, even if we know it is all killing us slowly. There is something psychologically impossible to resist there — we reach for a bag of chemically synthesized scientifically formulated taste treats for almost any reasons, good or bad or boring.
With the convenience of kibble, along with the utilization of animal byproducts in the massive slaughtering industry, we have a force to be reckoned. I like to call it the Dark Side.
There is no way to fight that or even argue with it. The Dark Side has billions of dollars as well as scientists, lobbyists, politicians, and CEOs at its disposable. All we have is nature. And nature is always right.
If we want to feed our dogs and our selves with whole foods, we have to get a little bit inconvenient. But that is the exact opposite way to look at it.
In the end this becomes a philosophical issue. What do we spend our time on? What time are we saving? If our saved up time is literally killing us in the end, was it worth it?
I don’t think so. I think it makes a lot of sense to spend that time portioning out animals bones, guts, muscle, into freezer safe containers and purchase a dedicated freezer for our pets meas in order to keep them at optimal health — they are our family members and friends and partners in crime.
Obviously if we don’t even take care of ourselves with whole foods, why would we do that for our family members?
All that time spent preparing pet food? That is quality time, that is good time spent for a good reason. It’s not a waste of time. The convenience food industry has us believing we can spend all the time we save on fun stuff, but all we end up spending it on is surfing social media, playing video games, and watching Netflix. It isn’t a hassle to prepare your own food.
Is bone cancer too much of a hassle?
The other part of the documentary explores about how the advertising of the pet food industry is brainwashing us. There is very little actual useful information on a bag of pet food. It is an extremely effective brain bomb that is designed to make you think you are buying something wholesome and healthy, when in reality that could be the farthest thing from the truth. Pet Fooled contained a few example sf pets owners who have had their dogs get sick and die from food that was contaminated by chemicals from China, and the pet food companies in question deny any wrongdoing “Nope, our food is healthy — just look at what our paid scientists say!”
The biggest brainwashing of all is that our pets can thrive and be healthy on grain-based kibble.
Before Venom was diagnosed with bone cancer, I was researching the effects that grain consumption has on human beings, and I had come to the conclusion that grain consumption, being about 10,000 years old, was in fact a failed experiment. We are far healthier when we eat animals that graze on grass as we did before the advent of agriculture in the pastoral age.
It’s funny. If you give up grains for any amount of time, you end up with stable moods and energy levels and a healthier body. The argument for grains is again perpetuated by the grain industry and the lobbyists inside the regulatory agencies that control health education and so on.
Grain was humankind’s first convenience food that changed our history immensely, much like kibble has changed the lives that dogs lead.
A little bit of grain consumption does little harm, but when we create a food pyramid based on grains as the foundation of health, that does harm on a broader scale, especially in a sedentary culture like our own.
Preventative measures are much more effective then treatments when the disease has taken a foothold in our bodies.
So essentially, like much of our livestock, we are feeding dogs an unhealthy diet for our own convenience purposes, masked in propaganda that the dog food industry itself is creating.
I do think the raw food diet is going to be the best diet to choose for preventive medicine for my dog. It is so difficult to switch gears that, even after my research and experience, I find it hard to bite the bullet so to speak and get going on it! Even with access to large amounts of meat and bone and so on, I found it difficult to get going on a raw pet food diet.
I reached out to Kohl Harrington, director of Pet Fooled, and asked him a couple of key questions.
I asked him what he thought was the most important action a pet owner can do today to get their pet on the right track toward optimal health?”
He responded: “Thinking in terms of variety and incorporating fresh nutrition into the dog or cat’s diet is a very important step. The #1 stresses for any dog or cat parent is “which ONE option or brand should I be doing?!” People often feel in frantic mode about “doing the right thing” and the biggest myth in this industry is that idea of “one” brand or option. This is about an approach to feeding and for healthy animals, variety is imperative to good health. Variety of proteins, diets, brands if you want. You can make it part of the time, buy commercial others. But variety and mixing things up is key.”
I also wondered what practices he thought could make the transition from kibble to raw foods easier?
His response: “Dr. Barbara Royal and Dr. Karen Becker speak about this often, which is adding 15–20% fresh food to kibble diets. People start by adding in eggs, raw goats milk, or literally pieces of fish meat and vegetables. Adding in fresh foods over time helps make that transition easier and more enjoyable. There’s so many carbs, which turns into sugar in kibble diets and it’s unnecessary. The big shocker for people when they switch diets to appropriate foods is that the “poop” is so minimal compared to “kibble” fed diet poop. That’s because the body is actually using the nutrition in fresh diets compared to the high processed diets.”
Before Venom became sick I was experimenting with a carnivore diet myself.
Meat is processed quickly in the human gut, as it is extremely availability and lacks fiber, which the digestive system has to break down in order to extract the nutrients. The truth of the matter is exactly the opposite of the common vegetarian myth about meat rotting in the colon — vegetable matter hangs out in the digestive system in order to be broken down, technically “rotting”, and meat and animal products are processed very quickly and efficiently in most human bodies.
Without carbohydrates or sugars my blood sugar levels stayed extremely stable, my moods were very level, and I didn’t feel sleepy or tired in the afternoon after a blood sugar crash. I could eat my fill of animal-based foods and feel great afterwards and ready to work for hours. Overall it was a positive experience and I will revisit that way of eating in the future.
If a carnivorous diet can be helpful for humans, how can we say it is detrimental to a dog? A dog is actually a carnivore, and can live happily and healthily on meat alone. Their entire system is designed to eat fresh or rotting meat. To say otherwise literally doesn’t make any sense. When you ask a doctor, or read an interview with a vet that says that a dog must have a grain based diet for proper growth and energy, I am baffled. Dogs and humans have co-evolved for the past 100,000 years or even more, and in the majority of that time we have not had grains to use for kibble, and for the majority of that time we have not had degenerative diseases that we see running rampant now. A dog can obviously be full of energy on a raw diet and a human can be full of energy on a fully carnivore diet as well!
As modern humans we typically don’t let our dogs run wild in the woods to scavenge rotting carcasses for their meals, so what are the modern and safer alternatives?
Lets look at the two different types of raw food diet that people typically adopt: the BARF diet — the Biologically Appropriate Raw Food diet, which is a prepared food diet, and the Prey model diet, which simply consists of feeding whole chunks of fresh animal to your dog. Pet owners following a raw food diet dispense with the kibble and dry pellets and only feed their pets with fresh and natural whole foods. Many dog owners who make the switch see drastic differences in their pets, such as “Shinier, healthier skin, Fresher breath/cleaner teeth, Improved digestion, Improvement with allergy symptoms, Decreased shedding, Increased stamina, Firmer, smaller stools, A general increase in overall health.”
Obviously for me, living on a farm with lots of space, a Prey model seems most sensible, but is it? In order to not attract rodents and other opportunistic species, the pieces of meat ideally would be consumed in one sitting, and for me it is important to see and understand what my dog is eating, so while I practice Prey feeding to some degree for dog treats, I tend to gravitate toward the BARF method of feeding our dogs.
The BARF diet is more convenient indoors and makes my girlfriend happier then the PREY method — there are less animal parts being dragged around the lawn!
The BARF diet does require some time and space and equipment to make it more convenient. I’ve calculated the basic costs of starting up this way of feeding your dogs and it will run about $200-$400 for a standalone freezer, and about $20 or so for enough Tupperware containers to last for a couple weeks to a month of prepared animal foods for your pet. Overall, a pretty small investment for the health and well-being of your pet, especially if we remember that about 75% of their health comes directly out of that freezer.
I already advocate to my pork customers to just go ahead and buy the freezer space you need to store a whole pig and more — the cost of doing so is minimal when amortized out over the life of the freezer. And the savings you get when buying in bulk is substantial, which adds up over the years as well!
Fat to Protein Ratios
In a BARF diet we mix up fruit, vegetables, and of course meat, fat, bone, and organs. You can also add eggs and yogurt to our dogs diet, for the same reasons that we would eat them, including the probiotics that can help them digest. Obviously we don’t want to feed our dogs anything they are allergic to, and we don’t want to overfeed or underfeed our dogs. So how do we prepare our meals for the coming week?
The general rule of thumb for raw feeding of dogs is to feed them about 2–3% of their bodyweight in food a day; 2% for a slightly overweight dog and 3% for a slightly underweight. For my 35 pound Belle, that is .7 pounds to 1.4 pounds per day of fresh food. The bulk of the meal should be muscle and fat, about 70% of the diet.
In order to keep your dog healthy and happy, 10–15% of your diet should be bone, which contains the extremely important nutrients calcium and phosphorous. 10–15% should be liver and other organs, which is basically your dog’s multivitamin.
No more then 10% should fruit and vegetable matter, and of that 10%, 7% should be vegetables and 3% fruits. Some people don’t see the point in feeding their dogs any plants. Personally, I do not.
My shorthand for preparing a balances BARF diet for our pets is:
Feed Adult Dogs 2–3% of their weight Daily / Feed Puppies 2–3% of their adult ideal weight Daily, plus extra bones and calcium for growth
70% Muscle & Fat (maximum 80/20 ratio)
Begin to transition your dog to a Raw Diet by adding about 15–25% raw foods to your dog’s current diet, and slowly increase the amount of raw foods for 30–60 days or more, depending on how your dog reacts.
For those concerned about the bacteria on the raw meat and your pet becoming sick: “The hydrochloric acid in a carnivore’s stomach is a protective enzyme against pathogens. Their stomach is highly acidic (about a pH 1) while their digestive system is short and lacks complexity. Bacteria is killed when ingested and passed within 4–6 hours as waste. Since the time to complete digestion is very short, the bacteria does not stay in the body for long.”
Keep in mind that a big meaty bone will be a great snack and a fun time for your pup, but it not full of calories.
A growing puppy needs to eat around 10% of their bodyweight in fresh foods. Keep in mind they can’t chew and process bones in the same way that an adult puppy can.
So in order to prepare our BARF diet for our pets, we simply set aside an afternoon with our thawed meats, a scale, and our tupperware, and package up their daily meals for the coming week or month. Just like any meal preparation, the time involved depends on your skill level and organization.
We feed our dogs Golden Paste, a Turmeric and Coconut Oil (Or Lard) paste which has a powerful anti-tumor properties, as well as Fish Oil that is high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids that have numerous benefits for our pets. I feel that those are my top picks for dog health, but many other BARF diet proponents add still other supplements to their raw food diet menu.
Another supplement I would add in the future is a Maitake mushroom blend for its proven anti-tumor and overall health benefits.
As with all supplements, choosing quality products is key to effective usage. For instance in the case of Turmeric powder you shouldn’t use the stuff you can find in the stores — you need to search out and find Turmeric powder with high levels of curcumin, over 3%, ideally up over 6%, as that is the essential active ingredient that protects against cancer.
Rancid fish oils will be ineffective, and low quality mushroom extracts will also not be effective.
Starting today is the best way to incorporate any good habit into your life, as well as your dog’s life.