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Lisa Nicolello

Doing It Naturally

By Linda Monroe

(What follows is part of the question and answer session that was generated by discussion of the "BARF" diet (bones and raw food) on the Mastiff list -- italics are questions which Linda is answering)

What IS enough to stop me, is the concern over (a) can the dog REALLY handle the bones? and, (b) can the dog REALLY handle the pathogens which are in the meat and bones?

It would have stopped me also had I not investigated the diet and watched others feed it. I lurked on the natural feeding mailing lists for months before attempting anything at all. With the encouragement of so many with so many different breeds, I took the plunge. I just wish I had started sooner. I also know someone who really went overboard with a raw diet and followed Juliette de Barracli Levy's method from her book. I nearly had a stroke when she came to visit me and brought a cooler full of freshly cut up goat. I watched how she fed the dog she brought, one of mine by the way, and the pup was thriving. That was a few years ago and so far, all her dogs are doing great, and look fantastic. I know there are people watching me and it does scare me a little and makes me afraid of making a mistake. Many would like to see me fall flat on my face. Oh well, I've been flattened before and probably will be again someday. But, being the bull headed stubborn person that I am, I have to see it through before quitting. Not enough time has elapsed to find out if the diet change is going to do what I think it will.

I assume that everyone agrees that there ARE pathogens in the raw meat being fed to the dogs. I guess the question is whether the dogs are susceptible to these pathogens.

And there ARE pathogens in commercial dog food. Witness the recall of one just recently as well as many others. Remember when Purina killed a bunch of dogs? Didn't hear much about the Science Diet killings since it was hushed up. And that's only a drop in the bucket. Eagle killed one of mine, made the rest very ill, and I believe was the cause of several birth defects in litters born after the incident. Not only are there pathogens, but often high concentrations of heavy metals, arsenic, steroids and other elements.

This is the concern that kept me from seriously considering raw food.

My family also was vegetarian for five years before moving to the country. I refused to eat meat raised inhumanely, not because of the pathogens. We started eating meat again when I raised it myself in a humane manor. Fish have more problems than meat due to the pollution in our oceans and rivers.

While dogs originally certainly did evolve to eat raw meat and even scavenged stuff, that was then and this is now. I find it quite likely that thousands of years of eating man's leavings, mostly cooked (but don't forget that people would have been feeding their dogs the offal all along, until the 20th century, anyway) has affected dogs' ability to handle raw food. But the big thing that's changed is were our meat comes from.

You have to remember that dog food was only invented after World War II. Prior to that dogs were fed whatever the owners were getting as well as the parts people wouldn't eat. Yes, dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, but what they ate didn't change until recently. Horse, donkeys, mules, rabbits, chickens, and such have also been domesticated, but would we never feed them grass and let the chickens eat bugs? Are they only able to eat and survive on processed foods?

... fed their livestock feed that contained bits of the animals' own dead relatives, for instance, and despite what the Texas Cattle Farmers Association has to say, I'm on Oprah Winfrey's side on that: I do think it runs a high risk, not only of spreading diseases like Mad Cow Disease among the livestock, but quite possibly into the species that eats the livestock as well; be they human or canid! And that's when we're talking about "cooked" meat!

Absolutely agree here. Again, it is humans that are causing and spreading disease, not the animals themselves. How about commercial dog food containing dead dogs and cats, as well as road kill, zoo animals, and the dead, dying, diseased, and not fit for human consumption meats? Yes, when animals are fed back the same animal, they run the risk of contracting diseases that are specific to that animal. They ingest all the antibiotics, steroids, and whatnot, causing them to have a decreased immunity to disease. Same for chickens fed back the guts and poop covered papers under the cages. They are feeding chicken poop to cattle also. Can you imagine the nitrate concentration?

Chickens are so crowded in commercial chicken farms these days ...

Yes, extremely sad. I feel guilty feeding these poor animals to my dogs as well as myself, but everything has to eat. I prefer to feed very young animals since they haven't had much time to build up high levels of steroids, heavy metals, toxins, and such.

... substances and viruses that assuredly (and I believe everything commercial farmers tell me, yep, yep, I do) break down and become harmless with cooking. Without it? Seems pretty obviously a crap shoot.

Nope, it doesn't all break down with cooking and many substances remain totally intact, or even worse, are changed into something worse with the addition of heat.

I'm willing to admit that organic meat, even fed raw, would likely be healthier for a dog than cooked, highly processed kibble. But I don=t have that kind of money, and I don't have a farm ... the folks I do know who raise their own meat certainly don't raise enough of it to share with my dogs, so ...

Actually, organic meat shouldn't cost so much more since the farmers don't have to spend all that money on steroids, antibiotics, processed feed, etc. I think it's high because of the space needed to graze and also because it is a novelty item right now. Note: If using "organically" grown meats, please ask what they feed. I went to an organically raised chicken farm just recently and was assured the meat was organic because the "commercial" feed they used didn't contain any antibiotics! They had no clue as to what was in the commercial feed! Yikes!

Not only have dogs changed -- our food supply has changed. Despite my preference for vegetarian cuisine for myself, I wish there were viable alternatives for safe meat for my dogs and my friends.

Unfortunately, it isn't practical for many. I am fortunate to have a few acres and can raise my own if I want. We are thinking of starting a co-op so that more can share. I have a hard time raising veggies due to my soil being not only sandy and poor, but eaten up with gophers. Since I use no pesticides, the grasshoppers have a field day. I can raise meat, though, so am working on the barter system for veggies. My friend, Marty, breeder of my first Mastiff, has gone natural and is getting a milk cow and goats. We will raise calves on the cow milk, butcher them for the dogs, and use the goat milk directly. Cow milk will also be made into yogurt and cottage cheese (without the 14-19% salt!). I am raising rabbits and chickens for our enterprise, and maybe pigs again. Anyone in the San Antonio area want to grow veggies? My friend in Florida (Lisa) already raises her own chickens and turkeys as well as growing veggies. (I'm soooooo jealous).

By the way, I put my money where my mouth is on this one. I buy only eggs from organically fed, free-range hens ...

Remember, the eggs are not contaminated by what the hen eats, but by human handling, so organic eggs can still contain salmonella and such.

For now, all I can do is the best I can and take my chances with the meat industry. I would still rather take chances with raw meat and a nutritious diet than to feed my dogs commercial. Only time will tell if I am on the right track, but so far, so good.

(We will have more from Linda, as well as Sharon and Lisa, who have all switched to the BARF (bones and raw food) diet for their dogs. Also, some comments as to the results they are seeing in their adults and litters raised natural).

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