[ANSWERED] The ultimate diet.

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[ANSWERED] The ultimate diet.

Berichtdoor Ester » zo 22 feb, 2009 10:43

Hello Ian,

Thanks again for your support!

We as teammembers of "VoerNatuurlijk" ("Feed Naturally") often get the question what the minimum number of types of meat is, that they need to feed to their dog.
We always say that the variation can never be large enough. Despite this advice, some people want a guideline because they can't or just simply don't want to give their dog the best they can give it.
We advice a minimum of 4 different species of animals (like for example: horse/goat/duck/cow). Fish not included. What do you think, recalling to situations which are not ideal, is the minimum a dog needs when it comes to the types of meat?

I try to feed my own two dogs as natural as possible. The get whole mice, rats, guinea pigs, chickens, quails, rabbits, whole fish etc. In my opinion that's the most natural way you can feed pets. I only add some raw eggs to the menu and some yoghurt and that's it.
They don't get any vegetables or fruit or other supplements.
Do you think that feeding whole prey animals is "the ultimate diet" to feed your dogs (and cats)?
Do you think, in general, that some supplements are really necessary?

Furthermore: My dogs, one of almost eleven years old and a Australian Cattledog of 2 years old, are only eating for 3 or 4 times a week. I'm convinced of the fact that's more natural and that it's a benefit for their health. How do you feel about that?

At last. In the Netherlands there are a lot of people who feed minced complete commercial prepacked meat. Some of these owners think it's easy: they don't have to make a menu for their dogs, don't have to worry to buy all different kind of meat-products to make a balanced menu etc. And some owners are just afraid of giving their dogs raw meaty bones.
In the Netherlands there are about 20 different brands who are selling these minced products. Not all of these manufacturers are using good quality products in their product and so they add some minerals/vitamins to their product so the dog will still gets his vitamins. I'm worried about those dogs, the fact that the food is raw, doesn't make it all perfect in my opinion.
Some of those dogs are never seeing any raw meaty bone -or anything what's big enough to "chew" on- at all. In my opinion big pieces are better for the dogs health -both mentally and physically- Is it healthy enough to feed this minced food in your opinion, or should you give anything else too? Like big pieces of green tripe and whole carcasses etc?
I'm curious how you feel about that.

Thanks in advance!


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Berichtdoor Dr. Ian Billinghurst » wo 25 feb, 2009 13:26

Hello Ester,

The Minimum number of types of meat question
This is another question about 'rules.'

I have seen dogs do fine all their lives with only one type of meat fed – so long as it was in the context of a properly balanced programme of evolutionary nutrition. By balance, I mean – in terms of meat to bone to organ meat to vegetables etc.

On the other hand, consider Australia’s wild dog, the dingo. Dingos in Australia will spend months eating a very mixed diet with twenty or more protein types. At other times they will eat nothing else except young kangaroos, if that is all that is available. In some seasons and some years, the dingo will eat a diet of insects only for months at a time. However, no matter what the situation, ao long as the food is plentiful, they do well. They are, by instinct (their genome telling them what to do with what is available) following an evolutionary programme of nutrition.

In my experience, in the context of the home situation, it is far more important to get the over-all balance right than to stress out over ensuring a supply of many different meats.

However, I do understand that every one wants rules – it makes them feel comfortable, safe and happy. So four types of meat seems like a reasonable compromise. Having ‘allowed’ (as the authority) that level of meat differentiation, then stress and strongly emphasise the importance of evolutionary balance!

The whole prey animal question
You have raised the question or the opinion that whole prey feeding is the most natural way that we can feed pets; and you asked me whether or if I thought that feeding whole prey animals is the ‘ultimate’ diet to feed to dogs and cats.

This I think is a very good question, because, like so many questions, it raises some important issues. I will try, as best I can to address some of those issues.

Are the dogs we live with today animals that have evolved to be ONLY whole prey eaters: Definitely not! Do I think a whole prey diet is the closest diet possible to our dogs’ evolutionary diet? No, it is simply one possibility and a very good one; in fact, it might be the best we can, in a practical sense put together. However, I have to say that there are many reasons that it is not necessarily the ‘ultimate’ diet; included among those reasons is the fact that our dogs are not pure carnivores, they are not purely hunters. Yes, they almost certainly have descended from wild canids (wolves in all probability) that were predominantly hunters and carnivores, however, they have evolved away from that mode of life; they are now more omnivores and scavengers and less hunters and carnivores.

When our dogs evolved from wolves, they did so, almost certainly on the rubbish heaps of early humankind. Here they changed from being principally hunters to being principally scavengers – it is a long story and the biologist Raymond Coppinger tells the story very well in his book “Dogs.” ISBN 0-684-85530-5 Scribner 2001.

In other words, the ultimate diet for dogs must reflect those evolutionary facts.

The point is, dogs are not exactly wolves, they have moved on from that point. That does not mean that a whole-animal feeding paradigm is not a good one – it might even be the most practical and accessible method, by which we are able to approach the ideal or gold standard diet, given our limited resources, but, it is not necessarily the ultimate, nor is it necessarily the best in terms of mass appeal. Additionally, I must also make the point that I am not even sure that an ultimate evolutionary diet exists for any creature as there are (in nature), an infinite number of possibilities.

Now, I am well aware that there is this argument (often quite vehement) regarding the best way to structure a modern raw food diet for dogs (and cats). And let us suppose that I agree with you that feeding a wide variety of freshly killed whole animals might be the best way of ensuring our dogs get a diet that comes closest to their genomic requirements. Does that mean I will advise against the method of feeding an evolutionary diet based on feeding meat and bones and organ meat and crushed raw vegetables? Most definitely not!

If I had suggested in 1993, in my book ‘Give Your Dog a Bone,’ that people should source and feed their dogs with fresh warm carcasses of birds, mice, rats, guinea pigs etc., there would not be the huge raw food movement we see today. This movement would not have spread across the globe; there would not be literally thousands of raw food companies throughout the world producing evolutionary style food products for pets. We would not be seeing the major pet food companies sitting up and taking notice of this movement, and even attempting to adjust their own dreadful products to bring them into some sort of line with the evolutionary ethos (not that they understand this movement in those particular terms!)

In other words, if I had insisted in my book that people feed only a whole, prey-food-style diet, evolutionary-style nutrition would not have become the major force in companion animal nutrition that it is today. My book would have sold very few copies, it would have struck a chord with only a tiny minority of people and the many healthy raw fed dogs we see today would still be kibble eaters, with the obvious consequences.

In 1993, when this concept was simply an idea in my mind, I had to find a way to make this form of eating, cheap, acceptable, easily understood and widely available – for anyone and everyone – it had to be a method that would eventually lend itself to mass production on a commercial scale. So while I do not dispute that the way you feed your dogs (and cats) is, in all probability an extremely healthy method (dependent very much on the health of the prey animals!), it is most certainly, not for everyone! The whole prey method is not one that will ever gain popular appeal or support and this is the principle reason I push for a more appealing, accessible and available method.

My concern was and is to make healthy food for dogs (and cats) an easily learnt technique (take the power away from the food manufacturers and put it back where it belongs, in the hands of the pet owners), a feeding programme that is accessible for all, and one that has maximum appeal. We are never going to see a situation, where a young family, with young children, will breed, and/or keep guinea pigs and rabbits and other small mammals, and birds such as chickens and ducklings as food for their companion cats and dogs. For a whole variety of reasons including costs, aesthetics and problems associated with gut-borne pathogens, we will not see a situation where such food becomes commercially available on a large scale.

As a veterinarian in practice, who sees young families daily, I can assure you that these little creatures, which you see as food for your companion animals, are seen as treasured pets, and not only by children!

I know that the only reason there has been a shift away from processed food towards real food, and the only way it can continue, with the greatest number of dogs and cats eating this way, is for evolutionary style food to be cheaply and locally available in an acceptable form. Events subsequent to my initial concepts regarding this style of feeding, have shown that it has to be a form of feeding that lends itself to commercial production, and it ideally, should do so as cheaply as possible.

My agenda in “Give Your Dog a Bone” was to spread the knowledge, including the simplicity of this method of feeding, as widely as possible, and that agenda remains today – one hundred percent unchanged. For my part, I am so happy, that this dream is being realised. However, in my naïveté, I did not foresee the anger, the conflict and the politics that would develop from my simple ideas; none of this from me – let me add. However, with an older and wiser head, I now see that such conflict is almost inevitable, given the nature of human beings – and that in reality, the conflict has its own unique value – as all publicity is good publicity – as the saying goes!

And my hidden agenda, was and still is, is for people to see the value in evolutionary style nutrition and to realise that whole food eating should become the key to their own health. As a veterinarian in practice, dealing daily with people, that hidden agenda is bearing fruit. For such people, their companion-animals are leading them into health, their companion animals have truly have become their best friends!

Important: I don’t mind if this statement of mine regarding the feeding of whole prey animals is repeated elsewhere – so long as it is repeated in full and no quotes are taken from it and quoted out of context.

The question about supplements
You asked …

“Do I think, in general, that some supplements are really necessary.”

I will repeat my answer to a previous question. “It is my experience, that where people feed their dogs and cats an evolutionary type diet, consisting of a wide variety of fresh, whole and raw foods in evolutionary balance, there is little need for supplementation.”

The question about frequency of feeding
Yes I agree; in my experience, a lot of dogs eating real food will only want to eat every couple of days – and we should respect their wishes!

The question about commercial raw diets that are not up to standard
Once again I agree with you. The point is, the more a dietary programme fails to live up to evolutionary norms, the more likely it is to result in problems. What we do about such matters is another thing altogether and for that I do not have a complete answer. We cannot ‘bludgeon’ the makers of these sub-standard products into producing a better product. We can however, through educational programmes teach people with less understanding than ourselves, what they should be looking for, when they seek to feed their dog with a raw commercial product. Any drop in sales will force the manufacturer to re-think his or her philosophy – they will either, produce a better quality product that people want, or they will go out of business.

At the end of the day, it is up to people like yourself (and myself), at the ‘coal-face’ (so to speak), to make a real difference through positive and helpful education. And please note once again, that it is no good insisting that people adopt a method such as whole prey feeding, if that tactic simply turns them back to kibble. “Purist’ thinking of this sort is of no value to anyone, least of all the helpless dogs and cats, whose feeding programme and responsibility, lies entirely with their owners/caregivers.

I believe that people like myself and yourself, with a genuine understanding of canine (and feline) nutrition, have a responsibility to help people understand the simple steps they can take to make healthy food for dogs and cats; show them the easily learnt techniques that will take the power away from the pet food manufacturers. I believe it is important that we put the power back where it belongs, in their hands, and that includes the power involved in making sensible choices when it comes to selecting a raw commercial product. That is the only way we can get the greatest number of dogs (and cats) eating this way.

And as I said, the hidden agenda is for our companion animals to lead the way and show their carers that whole food eating should become the key to their (the carers) own health.


Ian Billinghurst

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