The Raw Feeding Revolution with Dr Nick Thompson
Watch the full Q&A session here on Facebook @k9anytime
Good evening Nick, thanks for joining us. We have a whole host of dog parents eager to find out more about the raw feeding revolution. Could we start with an Introduction?
Absolutely! I qualified as a vet 28 years ago from the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh and have had a very interesting journey - starting out in conventional medicine for the first 7 years of my career I then went into complimentary and alternative medicine. I got into Raw Food in the mid 90's 25 years ago and have since worked with pretty much all the major brands that are now in the market. It's been a fascinating and exciting journey and it seems like everybody's finally catching up with the beauty and health benefits of raw food.
When I first started, very few people were feeding raw, but in the last ten years it's just rocketed. People are really getting it and the excitement that people get when they see their dogs improving even over just a couple of weeks is wonderful. It's often the case that the dog has been a bit smelly, a bit itchy and a bit squitty for years and the parents are completely stumped as to why. They know it isn't right and they take a punt. Many who first go onto raw food are terrified - there are myths about infections and bones and the rest, but then they do it and see the dog is enjoying their food, sometimes for the first time in their life, and they see the improvements in their health. I've had people weeping to me on the phone just a few days later because of the improvements they've seen in their dog - it's a glorious thing. Then you speak to them a year later and they say "Oh yeah, it's easy, its not expensive, we've not been to the vet for the last year, the dog looks better than ever!" For me one of the real beauties is that it's just so simple.
Speaking of people making the change over to raw, let's talk about kibble. What is it and what do we need to know about it?
I do a lecture called "Why do I hate Kibble?" and it's 2 hours long! Kibble was invented by the Purina group in the States in the mid 1950's. Basically, it's where you get meat meal powder (which could have been processed two years ago) and some kind of starch source (wheat, beef or sweet potato), mix them together, add water, steam cook the result, force it through a plate so that it turns into these funny little shapes. cut it, dry it, spray it with fat to balance the calorie levels, stick it in a bag and seal the top. That ultra-processed food is, unfortunately, what most people feed their dogs because it's really convenient, it's really cheap (but you get what you pay for) and people love those two things.
I've narrowed it down into the following list of Why I Hate Kibble:
They suggest that one kibble can do you for your entire life stage. Hills, for example, have "Adult Maintenance" - the marketing says you go on it as an adult at about one year old and continue until their "Senior" diet when you're about 6 or 7 years old. That's an entire life stage being fed on one single thing and I think that is totally unbiological.
Some brands say that one diet will do for all species and have breed specific ranges like chihuahua, pug, labrador etc which is complete piffle (that's the polite version...) They say that kibble is balanced, but can one formulation be balanced for all those species or breeds and all the individuals within those breeds? Just like us humans, in any family or friendship group everybody has a different way of eating. Some people eat loads of calories but remain slim, some people have to be much more careful because of their metabolism. 'One diet fits all' is just nonsensical.
Ideally I would be feeding once a day because there's a lot of work to say that fasting does humans and dogs a lot of good. The kibble companies say feed twice a day because it improves their profits; they sell more kibble. I don't believe kibble companies have the best interests of the dogs at heart, rather the best interests of their shareholders.
The Gold Standard for dog food is an AAFCO trial: you have to put 6 dogs through a 6 month trial and they can't lose or gain more than 15% of body weight. If you can do that you can sell that diet as "Complete" and "Balanced" for an entire life. 6 dogs, 6 months, Gold Standard... nonsense!
Kibbles are full of carbs - it's is the thing that glues them together. The companies say it's for "energy" but actually it just glues the food together, without it it would just be powder at the bottom of the bag after a week or two or after transport. Dogs do not have a necessity for carbs and in fact the FEDIAF (the European pet food manufacturer) don't mention it - there is no recommendation for maximum or minimum level of carbohydrate. When you look at some of the science, dogs don't actually require wheat or sweet potato or anything like that, so in some cases 30-60% of the diet is totally unnecessary. This is why we have 70% of dogs obese or overweight in the UK, and if most of those eat kibble, there has to be some connection. To distance an obesity epidemic from the food that most people feed is ludicrous!
Kibble can and often does contain food storage mites, raw or fresh food because it's frozen does not! Sometimes an allergy isn't in fact to the food, but to the storage mites.
As a manufacturer, you can get away with cheap, horrible, nasty ingredients because they all come out the same, as little brown biscuits.
Any degree of significant cooking will decrease the nutritional value of food. Our Mums have always said "don't overcook it or you'll lose all the goodness!" and when you combine sugars (in kibble) and protein (in meat meal) and heat to high temperatures you get things called Glycation End Products which are essentially a type of sugary protienatious molecule which is carcinogenic. Accrilomide is one example of a glycation end product and it's similar to that which is found in tobacco smoke.
About 70 or 80% of dogs have got periodontal disease (gingivitis and inflammation of the gums) eating kibble by the time they're two years old, so the fallacy that kibble cleans teeth is exactly that. Everybody says dogs need something crunchy for their teeth - they need BONES. That's what dogs have been eating for a million years.
Bioavailability - you can use chalk as the calcium source within your food and can then say "we have put the right amount of calcium in there", but calcium has very poor bioavailability. However, if you feed the same amount of bone, you're going to absorb that so much better. Just because it's according to the regulations on ingredients doesn't mean that amount of nutrient is going to get into the body.
There are 8.7million species on this planet and only 2 of them eat kibble - cats & dogs. Go figure. We don't feed it to astronauts, convicts, or in war zones, we feed it to our cats and dogs who we really, really love. We've all been hoodwinked by the massive corporations who are making billions on the back of it.
That's right, we are blindsided by marketing and packaging and buzzwords as well as years of the 'conventional' way to feed our dogs. What are dogs biologically designed to eat?
Corporations who are trying to sell kibble say that dogs are omnivores like us, but if you read the textbooks they are described as facultative carnivores, meaning they can dip into omnivory and go up into really hardcore carnivory. I think they should be called goativores, rativores, rabbitavores, because that's what they eat! They also eat horse poo and sheep poo and cow poo and carcasses they find lying around in the forest, they'll eat fruit in season and pick berries. Cats do not do that because they are obligate carnivores, the kings and queens of the carnivore world because that is all they eat. Dogs eat whatever they can get hold of.
We humans call ourselves 'hunter gatherers' and our dogs 'scavengers', but actually we're pretty much the same. We're both essentially scavengers. Fresh or dead prey, they eat the whole thing, eyes, brains, teeth, skin, hair, the whole thing! When we are designing diets, the more inclusive and encompassing they can be the better - dogs need viscera, organs from throughout the body, skin, fur and nervous tissue. To try and emulate that whole prey body experience would be the ideal diet, but we humans can be a little bit squeamish in that respect.
So as dog parents we can begin to emulate this ideal diet with raw feeding. What in general terms are the benefits of a raw diet?
Feeding a proper, broad spectrum, varied raw diet you can very much expect to see cleaner teeth, less watery eyes (epiphora), less itchy gloopy ears, better digestion, less squeaking or grumbling, less wind, less smell, better anal gland function, healthier skin, better nail quality, stool quality improving. Basically if you can think of any parameter of health, it will be improved with raw food. I have a scale of stool quality where 0 is soup and 10 is a perfect torpedo that you can pick up with two fingers. You might not like to talk about it over breakfast, but we're all pretty familiar with dog poo, and if you can get that perfect poo then it makes your life a whole lot easier! If there's one thing to sell the raw food - forget the health benefits, forget the fact your dog's going to be satisfied for the first time in their life, if you want to be totally selfish about it, then pickuppable poos is a game changer.
So what is it in raw food and in the transition from kibble to raw that is causing these countless improvements?
There's two things. 1. All the downsides of kibble as above are suddenly gone. Your body can breathe and isn't being pounded by carcinogens and carbs it doesn't need and obesogenic food ingredients. You're just not eating the bad stuff. 2. Your body and gut and your microbiome, which is so important to your body and your mind, all those things are being exposed to food ingredients that the body has exquisitely and minutely evolved to digest with great efficiency over a million years. You're suddenly allowing them access to the crown jewels, to that on which their body was designed to function. It's like putting rubbish fuel in a Forumla 1 car; it might be enough to get you to the shops and back, but it's going to clog up the engine, it's not going to go very fast and it's going to keep on breaking down. This is the perfect analogy for food - once you start putting the appropriate fuel into that particular vehicle, the engine works better, you get better mileage, the engine lasts longer, you have better probability of good longevity, a good life span and a good health span. We want our dogs to be alive and kicking until the day they go to heaven, we don't want them to get fat, old, arthritic. We can give them a diet which can help them every single meal to be the healthiest they can possibly be. There has been research to conclude that if the microbiome controls the brain, the microbiome controls everything. so how do you keep the microbiome happy? You feed it what it wants. What does it want? That which evolution has dictated it needs.
What myths do we need to bust about raw?
"Your dog will get infection. salmonella and E-coli" - that's just not borne out by the figures. I can guarantee if there was even half a dozen dogs getting significant infraction every year, it would be on the front of the papers in a flash! There are bacteria in raw food, but the incidence of infection is just vanishingly small. In fact, if you look carefully at the literature there appears to be a greater risk from kibbled food rather than raw food.
"Will my dog get parasites? campalabacta, worms etc." The answer is - no. Parasites are killed by freezing! If you buy your raw food frozen, it ain't got no bugs in it.
"Raw food is not complete or balanced." As we said earlier, many of the good top companies do balance their foods, but I think if you feed a variety of vaguely balanced raw food, beef, rabbit lamb and so on, the body will sort itself out as it has done for a million years.
"Bones are dangerous." Feeding bones is like crossing the road. Yes, in the UK there are 40 billion road crossing events per day, but the number of people who are injured compared with the benefit of people crossing the road is incomparable and, for me, feeding bones is of a similar proportion. To have problems with bones is like winning the lottery, it's a pretty rare event.
"It's expensive." If you factor in that your dog is going to be so much healthier and you're going to need so much less veterinary intervention, I think that raw food is not more expensive that feeding a cheap diet and, ultimately, you get what you pay for. I don't think using expense is a good argument.
Dr. Nick Thompson BSc (Vet Sci) Hons, BVM&S, VetMFHom, MRCVS.
The Veterinary Practice Wadswick Country Store Corsham SN13 8JB (Sat Nav: SN13 0NY) United Kingdom
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 01225 487778 Fax: 07092 233930