rawneckWhat comes in goes out. Giving your dogs the best food you can is important for their health and longevity. I now raw fed. I used to free feed kibble when I was doing direct rescue work, and that worked well then. But as my personal dogs aged, I wanted them to live as long as possible. Research pointed the way to raw feeding. I switched four dogs over the age of ten to raw feeding. The change in their health, coats, demeanor was incredible.

It’s not hard to do once you commit to it, learn about it, and find out what your dogs do best on. You will need an extra freezer to take advantage of deals on bulk meats and bones. Info below and with these links:

An article by Lisa Walk of Herbs for Animals.


With the recent scares regarding commercially prepared pet food, many of you may be researching a better food option for your pet.  Not only does home prepared food give you direct control over quality and safety issues, many of you may also find that home prepared diets also improve your pet’s health.

Without a doubt, with most issues that are brought to me about a pet’s health, and what herbal remedies I may have; my first question back is “What are you feeding?”

The building block to health is a good diet.  There are many commercial kibble and canned foods available, some better than others.  In recent years, many dog food companies have emerged that offer a far higher quality of food focusing more on meat protein rather than grain as their primary protein source.  However, to be cost effective, most commercial foods have a base of grain and fillers such as soy and various meals and byproducts.  Many commercial foods contain artificial colors and flavors, a copious amount of sugar and salt to make it palatable and preservatives for a long shelf life.  To better educate yourself on commercially prepared dog food quality and safety, the Whole Dog Journal (see below) offers an annual review of premium kibble and canned foods.  This publication weeds out expensive lesser-quality foods and focuses on foods that have optimum ingredients, nutritional analysis and good reputations.  Additionally, the WDJ contains many great articles on other topics of holistic health, training and behavior.

Many natural health advocates feel that commonly available commercial foods, laden with ingredients the dogs would do better without, are contributing to the health problems faced by our dogs today.  Common problems faced by our canine companions today- allergies, cataract development, seizure disorders, chronic infections, skin problems and autoimmune problems respond quickly to a switch from commercial foods (yes, even the “good” brands) to a raw, natural diet.  Tartar build up on teeth is removed naturally and gum health and breath is improved.

Our domestic dogs and cats proportionately for their body size, have the same “digestive tract” of their wild canine & feline brethren.  When is the last time you saw a wolf, coyote, cougar or lion grazing in a grain field?  I am sure most of us realize that artificial colors, flavors, & preservatives are not good for us, let alone our pets that face the same environmental challenges that we do.

In a “raw” diet, you are creating a “prey animal” that the animal would eat in the wild:

The Biologically Appropriate Raw Food diet is comprised of 3 basic parts,
1) Raw, meaty bones
2) variety of vegetables-ground to resemble stomach contents of prey animal
3) supplements such as  Vitamin C, flaxseed and/or fish body oil. Cats need taurine.

Additions such as raw egg, and a small amount of raw liver or other organ meat should be added a couple of times a week.

The bones are fed raw.  Many people use raw chicken backs and necks, as well as pork neckbones, beef oxtails, or any wild game off-cut meaty bones.  The bones are never cooked as cooking makes the bones splintery.  If you are concerned with choking, you can grind the raw meaty bones into hamburger like consistency with a meat grinder.

The vegetables are a variety of pureed veggies such as carrots, winter & summer squash, beans, peas, pumpkin, etc.  I tend to avoid nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplant, raw potato and bell peppers as they can aggravate autoimmune problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc., in both people and dogs.  I also rotate veggies such as broccoli, turnips, kale, cabbage & collards as they can suppress thyroid function if used everyday.

I occasionally use cooked grains such as brown rice, oatmeal or barley, based on the individual needs of the animal.  I never use grains if the animal has an allergy problem, as grains are common culprits of this malady.  However, if you have a lean, overly energetic animal, grains can sometimes give them a little more bulk.

The supplements can be purchased at health food stores and most mass market retailers have a good selection of supplements at reasonable prices.  If you are feeding dogs or cats en masse, I would recommend buying in bulk.


I am sure you have also seen the myriad of over the counter glucosamine and related products…and are wondering if they really work.  Studies have shown improved range of motion and even radiographic evidence of lessening of arthritis inflammation with the routine use of glucosamine & related products. Greyhound Gang offers high quality glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM and Vitamin C at very reasonable prices; proceeds go to Greyhound rescue. Shark Cartilage is a form of chondroitin sulfate, both glucosamine & chondroitin supply the building blocks for cartilage and helps to reduce inflammation and increase range of motion.  Dosage is based upon weight of animal.

A tablespoon of raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar added daily to the food is recommended by some for improvement with arthritis, breath and coat condition.  It is also helpful for animals with chronic urinary tract infections or stone formation.


There are a number of companies that are packaging and shipping raw diets for customer convenience, i.e., people who do not have time to prepare the meals themselves. You can find them by searching the internet.


If you prepare the food yourself, it is less expensive than buying a good quality commercial dog food. Prepackaged raw food will cost you more both in base cost and shipping.  However, the convenience may be worth it to some.


These are valid concerns.  Bacteria is present on raw meat.  However, our canine & feline companions have a digestive tract that is capable of dealing with bacteria.  Firstly, they have a higher stomach acid content than we do.  Secondly, their digestive tract is much shorter than ours- they are carnivores.  The meal does not sit in their gut or intestinal tract as long as humans so the risk of bacterial overgrowth is not a valid problem.  You can soak the raw meaty bones in diluted grapefruit seed extract in a sink full of water for about 15-20 minutes. This would kill most bacteria or parasites that could be present.

Choking- this could be a problem.  That is why we never, ever feed cooked bones.  Cooked bones are splintery and dangerous.  Most dogs and cats will chew on the raw meaty bones.  Choking can happen with any food, even kibble if you have a gulper or greedy gut.  If you are concerned about choking, the purchase of a small, economical meat grinder solves this problem.


It is very simple, just get your sources and ingredients together. At first, it will take you a little more time because you will be concerned with “getting all the details right.”  Once you get the concept of feeding this way, it is no more time consuming and far less expensive, both in food and vet bills to feed this way.  Good luck and good health!

**You need to make the right choices for your pets and how you feed them.  Additionally, you need to feel comfortable making such a switch.  Additional reading references are:

  • Give your Dog a Bone & Grow Your Pups with Bones- Dr. Ian Billinghurst, DVM
  • The Ultimate Diet- Kymythy Schultz,CCN, AHI
  • Dr. Pitcairn’s Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats- Dr. Richard Pitcairn, DVM
  • Four Paws Five Directions, Dr. Cheryl Schwartz, DVM
  • Natural Healing for Dogs and Cats, Shojai/Dr. Susan Wynn, DVM
  • The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat- Levy
  • Herbs for Pets- Tilford & Tilford
  • Health Bible for Dogs and Cats- Dr. Shawn Messonier, DVM
  • The Holistic Veterinary Handbook- Dr. William G. Winter, DVM
  • The Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog, Volhard & Dr. Kerry Brown, DVM

Whole Dog Journal  (800) 829-9195   PO Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 32142

To locate a holistic veterinarian in you area that is familiar with the associated health benefits of this diet, you can contact the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), 2214 Old Emmorton Road, Bel Air, MD 21015, (410) 569-0795
click on AHVMA to get to their database of holistic vets.

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