The Meat-Based Diet: Feeding your dog the right meat in the right quantities.
Last week we talked about protein in your dog’s diet. This week we’re going to take a look at the most practical and beneficial diet: the meat-based diet.
Depending on the country you live in, chicken is often the simplest choice when it comes to buying fresh meat for your dog―and it is usually the cheapest. You can often get scraps from the butcher in the form of skin, heads, necks, feet, and so on, but bear in mind that liver and kidneys offer excellent nutrition and should make up 10% of the diet. An ideal scenario would be to buy a whole chicken and feed it to your dog over the course of several days. That way everything is in the correct proportion, the organs, fat, bones, and muscle meat.
You can feed your dog whatever meat is readily available where you live and is within your budget. Variety is best. For a 10 kg dog, you could give 150 g of chicken per day, along with an egg (40 g) and some carbohydrate (60 g) in the form of cooked rice or soya chunks. Then, to create a balanced diet, you can include some vegetables, such as carrots, green beans, or whatever else is in season and available.
In India, and many parts of the non-western world, goat and sheep meat is commonly consumed, and tripe from goats and sheep is ideal dog food. In fact, tripe is actually cheaper than chicken, and not only have the animals had a better life, grazing on the hills, there are no antibiotics or growth hormones in the meat. Tripe is a great source of nutrition and, although it’s a bit icky to some people, most dogs love it.
When it comes to feeding meat to dogs, we need to address the debate of raw vs. cooked. Many people say that you can’t feed raw meat or eggs to dogs because they will get salmonella. This is not true. Humans will get salmonella from raw chicken, but dogs are not humans. They have a digestive tract that has evolved to deal with bacteria in meat. Humans are the only animals that cook their meat, and even then, it is only certain meat―some cultures happily consume raw fish, raw beef, and many other types of raw meat. The pH of a dog’s stomach is more acidic and has evolved to kill the bacteria, and the digestive tract of a dog―or any carnivore―is much shorter than herbivores, so the food doesn’t have time to sit growing bacteria.
Another common misconception is that feeding raw meat increases the risk of salmonella for the human handling the meat. Surely when a person prepares meat for themselves, the risk is just the same. If we practice good hygiene, the risk is minimal.
The advantage of feeding dogs raw meat is that the bones can also be eaten, because they are softer and won’t splinter the way cooked bones do. Bones provide the calcium a dog needs and helps to maintain dental hygiene. Obviously any dog can choke on any part of their food, not just the bones, so supervision is always recommended no matter what you are feeding. And don’t give sharp, pointy pieces of bone that can cause damage on the way through the digestive system. As with everything, common sense is vital.
One more misconception is regarding raw eggs. I have heard again and again that raw eggs will give a dog (or human) a biotin deficiency, leading to skin and coat problems. This misinformation comes from the fact that raw egg white contains a protein called avidin, which binds to a protein called biotin, making the biotin unavailable for use by the body. Cooking the egg denatures the avidin so it can’t bind to biotin. However, biotin is in many different foods, including egg yolk. In fact, there is enough biotin in egg yolk alone to bind all the avidin in the egg white and still be some left for use by the body. Many raw egg whites―without the yolks―would need to be consumed each day to develop a biotin deficiency, so if the whole egg is fed to the dog, there is no risk. And on top of this, the intestinal bacteria of dogs produce the biotin required, so it is actually only needed in the diet if anti-bacterial agents are being prescribed.
In short, a meat-based diet is the best thing you could feed your dog, and raw food is always best. Be sensible about it, and be careful with handling raw meat, as you would be if you were preparing it for yourself, and there is nothing to worry about. Remember, in the wild dogs ate only raw meat and the contents of their prey’s stomachs―which gave them the vegetable nutrition needed.
We know many folks have issues feeding meat to their animals, so next week I will discuss vegetarian and vegan diets, and how make them work to meet your dog’s needs.
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About the author
Dr Becky Metcalf
Since the age of 11, after watching the BBC science documentary series Horizon, Becky wanted a career in science.
After completing a Bachelor’s in cell and molecular biology and a Master’s in molecular and genetic medicine, she finally settled on immunology as her field of choice, going on to complete a PhD in the subject. One post-doc later, Becky left England for India, to volunteer at the Tibetan Delek Hospital in Dharamsala, working in the TB section. Feeling quite at home in the mountains, her six-month trip turned into eighteen months.
Just as she was preparing to return to the UK in 2014, her good friend Richard from Dharamsala Animal Rescue asked Becky to foster a puppy they had rescued. However, this was no ordinary puppy: Pluto had been diagnosed with diabetes at the age of eight weeks, was very small and skinny, and had a skin condition. Becky agreed to take her in for the winter, researched diabetes in dogs, changed her diet and insulin regime, got her healthy, and decided to adopt her. This was the start of her volunteer work at DAR. Becky is now a fulltime volunteer at DAR, where she has set up a diagnostic laboratory, and aides in diagnosing and treating rescued animals.