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Nutrition as a Vet
One thing that I thought I really could ignore and apparently vet school agreed with me was nutrition. With all the formulated dog foods out there all you had to know was just a basics of puppies and seniors and some prescription diets and you were a-okay. I had 3 weeks of nutrition classes that covered, however briefly, about 8 species, but primarily dogs and cats. It touched on lab animals, a bit on birds, mainly pscittacines, cows, sheep, pigs, horses and goats. It was also taught by a guest speaker from Hill's, the makers of Science Diet, and our textbook was a text that Hill's gave us. And like most vets I've met, I thought that was plenty.
Then I graduated and began to hear a bit about raw feeding. I tried to find more about it, because I was curious, not because I thought it was better. At the same time, I began to explore my health a bit and realized how much better I do without certain foods, mainly wheat based products and processed grains and I started looking a bit harder at raw food. I was intimidated. How could I go about doing what the dog food companies did, formulating a diet for the dogs I love and breed that everyone could be happy and healthy on. I'd worked with some ration formulators for my undergraduate degrees and I knew how not balancing a ration could affect the growth and production of food animals. This wasn't really considered a problem at all with companion animals because of all the complete feeds and kibbles.
So I read and read and read (and am still reading) and joined a few nutrition lists and a Raw Vet list and started experimenting slowly with my own dogs. I started with turkey necks for improvement on dental health and to get me more comfortable feeding raw. My dogs loved the turkey necks and wow what an improvement on their teeth and gums. So step one was a success and I began seeing things that I hadn't expected. My own dog with food allergies began to improve and I saw coats improving and stools were nice and firm and less smelly and smaller. From there I progressed to adding in more muscle (+calcium) and organ meat and then tripe as well as a "Feyd ball" mixture that I've adapted for putting weight on dogs that need some extra help gaining weight. It started out as Satin balls, but gradually it's shifted to remove all the grains and use salmon oil in place of flax oil and changed the meat source and add some micronutrients and a more balanced phosphorus ratio. Note the Feyd balls are NOT meant to be a complete diet, but a short term addition to one for dogs that are losing weight from stress.
One of my big concerns was micronutrients, since I am breeding dogs I do have a concern for nutrient levels for pregnant girls and young puppies as well and I've found a few supplements that seem to work well to round out the micronutrients, primarily those from b-naturals.com.
From what I've been able to see with my own pack on feeding raw is that they act healthier and happy than they ever did on kibble. They eat well and love their food, which is always a concern with a breed of dog that doesn't mind living on air for a few days, and that their bloodwork and exams come back within normal limits. I've got a pack of fairly young dogs at this point, but I'll continue to monitor them as they get older. Now recall my dogs do have access to a high quality kibble should they need extra food, but I do try and provide their nutrients from raw alone. When I see the kibble dropping I do a increase in the food fed.
I just worked on switching my cat crew over to raw as well, and boy I'm glad I did the dogs first because the cats were more of a challenge. They currently, like the dogs, have kibble available to them, though I did have to remove it in the beginning just to give the some incentive to taste raw. I have one cat that has IBD and I really want to get her on it after hearing some experience with IBD cats that recovered really well on raw. And she has. She was losing weight and muscle mass and developing an aversion to the litter box because of her diarrhea and now being on 1/2 raw1/2 canned meals her stools have improved and her weight is returning and her muscle mass is improving. Her fur is improving as well, she had a big increase in matting while we were trying to figure out her IBD and that is recovering with removal of the matts and chaing the foods. She still has a few small matts, but they aren't as big or accumulating as fast as they did on just kibble alone. The litter box is still an issue since she has had this for some time, but I expect to see it improve as time goes on.
I know that many people are frustrated by their vets reception when they mention raw food. But given the nutrition education that I was in Vet School and all of the brain washing that you get from the kibble reps, I can't really blame them. They truly believe that raw is bad and kibble is the right thing. They aren't doing it from a monetary incentive, but just because it was what they were taught and what they believe. I hope that my colleagues will learn outside their practice as I have done and take another look at raw feeding and give it a try themselves. There is an email list for those vets that are interested in learning more about raw. The main trouble with Raw is that there aren't many studies to support the anecdotal evidence that I have seen in my own and other dogs that are raw fed. Until those studies are perfromed and done well, it will be tough to convince people that Raw is better for the animals. But to me, feeding an animal what it was meant to be fed, makes sense.