Healthy dogs need a healthy diet to maintain health.
Sick, injured or ill dogs need a healthy diet to optimise healing capability.
Performance dogs need a healthy diet for optimum performance and stamina.
Young dogs need a healthy diet for optimum growth and development.
Older dogs need a healthy diet to preserve their faculties and energy levels.
Recreating completely natural conditions for a dog in a modern household is not practical or possible. Taking into account the vast variation in domestic situations and in canine breeds, compromises have been made in the recommendations, albeit keeping the ‘wild' situation in mind.
Dogs are carnivores, omnivores and scavengers, making them much easier to feed than cats. They appear to be well able to survive without meat but maintaining tooth and gum health without the ability to chew on raw meat and bones is much more challenging.
In the wild, they are capable of bringing down quite large prey and dealing with hide, bone etc., using their specialized teeth and powerful jaws. They eat carrion. They scavenge for what they can find and will eat berries and fruit, unearth roots, eat herbs and eat any eggs they may find. Generally-speaking, they are very resistant to food poisoning.
Dogs eat herbivore dung, providing a rich source of vegetable material, probiotics, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
They depend upon chewing raw meat and bones for healthy teeth and gums.
Food bowls and water bowls should be ceramic, to avoid toxic material leaching into the food or water.
Dogs may show signs or symptoms of food allergy or food intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) etc., if fed unsuitable foods or if the immune system becomes unbalanced.
Suitable foods are:
Fresh meat – (not pork, bacon, ham or other pig product) preferably raw, including chicken, rabbit, white fish (should be cooked), oily fish, bone (raw), beef, lamb, pigeon, pheasant, venison etc. In the case of chicken, feeding it raw may incur the risk of Salmonella (very dangerous to cats but usually much less so to most dogs) unless you know the source to be reliable. Frozen meat that has been thawed carefully and not re-frozen is a practical alternative to fresh meat. Even if cooking meat, it is advisable to feed some large chunks of tough, raw meat, that has to be chewed. Feeding raw meat from wild animals can incur the risk of intestinal worms. This can be monitored satisfactorily by having faeces samples checked in a veterinary laboratory.
Bones – a good-sized raw knuckle bone is ideal for a larger dog; a lamb shoulder joint is good for smaller dogs. We do not feed marrow bones, cooked bones or treated bones. Care may be needed when introducing an older dog to bones, if he has not been used to dealing with them (discuss with a holistic vet). For an older dog unused to bones, raw bones can be minced, which will provide the same nutritional benefits but the dental and gum health benefits will be lost thereby. N.B.: Care is needed if more than one dog lives in the house, as bones may promote fighting (the ‘bone of contention'). Take bones up before leaving a room. Similarly, do not leave small children in a room with a dog who has a bone [it is advisable anyway never to leave toddlers or crawling babies alone in a room with a family dog].
Fresh organic offal – e.g. liver, heart, kidney, not from a pig.
Vegetables – liquidised raw (not juiced unless the pulp is returned to provide essential dietary fibre) or well cooked (steamed or boiled).
Potato peelings – well-boiled.
Eggs – raw or cooked.
Herbs – a good source of minerals and vitamins.
Oil – cold-pressed, not solvent-extracted (e.g. olive oil, sunflower oil, flax oil, evening primrose oil, borage oil) and fish oils, to provide essential fatty acids in the diet.
Cod liver oil – may help some dogs, especially those with arthritis. Beware added chemical anti-oxidants.
Dogs can eat bread, toast etc., but they would not normally encounter grain starch in the wild, except as part of the partly-digested ingesta of their prey. Similarly, potatoes, rice, porage and wheat can be fed in moderation to a very active dog, unless the dog has a weight problem. N.B.: removing grain starch entirely from a dog's diet will not bring a nutritional penalty and may be to your dog's advantage.
Dogs can also eat in moderation (and usually like) cheese and milk products. However, pasteurised milk is not as healthy a food as unpasteurised goat's, sheep's or cow's milk. Cottage cheese and yoghurt are usually very acceptable.
Brewers Yeast tablets make excellent treats. They also offer a degree of flea deterrent benefit.
In general, dogs are well-able to live off healthy scraps and left-overs of human meals in the household. Their nutrient requirements are little different from ours. Feeding tidbits / titbits, if they are healthy and taken into account for overall intake, are not evil.
We do not discourage the eating of the dung of herbivores, as this provides plant fibre, probiotics, minerals and vitamins.
Supplementing the diet with a mineral and vitamin supplement can be a reasonable ‘insurance' against imbalance but products should be checked very carefully for unsuitable or unhealthy ingredients and additives.
Dogs fed in this way should have no need of expensive MSM, chondroitin or glucosamine supplements.
Garlic can render red blood cells more fragile so may give rise to anaemia in a sensitive dog or in one whose blood regeneration capacity is impaired. Many people feed garlic in moderation, without penalty.
If a dog eats his own or another dog's faeces (coprophagy), advice should be sought from a holistic vet.
Dry, biscuit-like foods are not good for the teeth and gums, as they give rise to plaque and tartar. This applies even if they are soaked before feeding. Some freeze-dried foods describe themselves as ‘natural'. However, freeze-drying is not a natural process, so it is a misnomer.
See also: Holistic Dog
At the Alternative Vet, we advise on natural feeding for every patient, whatever the species, as part of our holistic veterinary service. We do this whatever therapy or integrated program we may be using for a particular patient (i.e. homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine (herbs – phytotherapy), chiropractic manipulation or other therapy).
This advice is based on taking the nearest wild species as a prototype and modelling a diet on the natural diet of that species in its wild habitat. We do this as the most logical course, since man's selection of breeds of domestic animal has only occurred over a very short band of time, when compared with the time that the various species have evolved on Earth and established their niches.
We believe a wholesome diet to be the firm platform on which to build good health and longevity. We also believe that many health problems in all our domestic species stem from unhealthy or unsuitable feeding.
We advise to feed fresh food and to source it from organic suppliers whenever possible, since we believe that to be the healthiest way. Every part of the body and every system of the body functions better on a natural diet.
We advise against the feeding of manufactured foods and freeze-dried foods, which variably suffer from heavy processing, adulteration, denaturing, inclusion of undesirable (and sometimes harmful) additives and vigorous commercial marketing. Such foods do not serve health and well being so much as commercial interest and profit. Furthermore, manufactured and processed feeds have only been marketed over a few decades, which is but a blink in time, so the various species cannot possibly have had time enough to evolve to handle such artificial material. Processing cannot improve food and the addition of various artificial ingredients can only give the animal's immune system and metabolism an unwanted job, to rid the body of foreign and possibly noxious material.
We apply exactly the same principles to the feeding of supplements and treats.
Make no mistake, horse foods and pet foods are BIG BUSINESS – advertising hype is driven by the promise of huge profits.
Beware the word ‘natural', as it may falsely be used in advertising. For instance, how can a freeze-dried food be ‘natural'?
We also advise a healthy water supply, which would not always be local tap water.
We advise against supplying animals with softened water for drinking.
N.B.: This general feeding information is based on the advice given to clients who seek our services. It is opinion. We publish this information in good faith, with the motivation of sharing experiences and improving the health, longevity and well-being of our domestic animals. We make no profit from selling feeding products via this or any other web site and are independent from all manufacturers. Equally, we single out no manufacturers or products for particular criticism. We hope that this information is of value to you and your animal but please contact us if you require further help.
This general advice is not tailored to feeding for specific illnesses, for which we would need to give more individual advice.
N.B.: We do not offer specific feeding advice via e-mail or telephone to non-clients.